Dr Paunga made the comment while officially handing over the Samoa appeal for Post Winston Save the Children’s Fundraiser to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Save the Children’s Fund (SCF), Iris Low-McKenzie, at Laucala on 5 August.
Coordinated by USP’s Pacific Outreach Programme for Polynesia (POPP) Coordinator, Allan Alo and Fiji Airways, Dr Paunga acknowledged his hard work for spearheading the event at the Alafua campus.
“This financial assistance and expression of goodwill by the parties and people involved in the event shows that even though we are islands apart, our struggles, sadness, joys, resilience and our reverence for life is the same,” he stated.
Dr Paunga said in light of the tragedy, Samoa’s kinship ties with Fiji called for a reconnection that lend a compassionate and helping hand, especially to the children of Fiji.
On 20 February 2016, Cyclone Winston brought widespread damage to numerous islands in Fiji. Across Fiji, Winston dislocated, damaged and left in its aftermath a devastated nation and people, with a significant number of children in need of a helping hand. The cyclone left approximately 243 primary and secondary schools damaged and 64 schools destroyed, disrupting schooling of 72,137 students.
“So today is a very special day for the children of Fiji as USP and their partners for the Samoa Appeal - Fiji Airways, Goodman Fielder, Tanoa Tusitala Hotel, SPREP and Apollo Cinemas (Samoa) handover funds that were raised at the ‘Save the Children – Fiji ‘ fundraising event held in Apia, Samoa on 21st March 2016,” he said.
Dr Paunga mentioned that the ‘Save the Children - Fiji’ fundraiser raised a total of F$17.088.92 for the children of Fiji.
“A highlight of the programme was the launching of the film ‘Moana - The rising of the sea’ - an Oceania music-dance-drama which drew on a regional and global pressing issue of climate change and its adverse effects on many small Pacific Island nations,” he said.
Save The Children Fund CEO, Iris Low-McKenzie, gratefully acknowledged all those who contributed saying that when they supported SCF, they supported children.
“To the people of Samoa, we will forever be grateful that in our time of need, you came to our aid as Pacific Island partners,” she noted.
She pointed out that that while a lot has been done to help the children of Fiji recover, including the provision of temporary learning spaces and furniture, a lot more needed to be done.
“There is still a need for educational resources and there are many risks associated to water and hygiene that need to be mitigated,” she said.
Mrs Low-McKenzie said SCF believes that every child deserves a future.
“We do whatever it takes for children, everyday and in times of crisis, transforming their lives and the future we share,” she added.
She further assured that the children of Fiji would benefit from this ‘valuable donation’.