Robert Iatek stood barefoot atop the frame of his new house. He was busy attaching the tarpaulin he received from Samaritan’s Purse after Cyclone Pam destroyed his former home.
Robert lives in the small South Pacific island nation of Vanuatu. On March 13, 2015 the archipelago was struck by Cyclone Pam, a devastating Category 5 storm that locals consistently describe as the worst they’ve ever seen.
“The wind was like an earthquake,” Robert said. “The cyclone was very strong. It was coming from every direction. It put down all the houses.”
In the aftermath of the storm, Samaritan’s Purse launched an emergency response to help people in Vanuatu who lost everything and have nowhere else to turn.
“There’s so much destruction here. It’s really hard to see how it hurts the people and just destroys their lives,” said Patrick Seger, our response team leader.
The majority of our work is focused on providing relief supplies and medical aid to Tanna island, the hardest-hit area.
“When you get out to these villages, there’s just damage everywhere,” Patrick said. “You see families that have lost their homes, and there’s nothing but some rubble on the ground.”
In fact, entire villages lost their homes, including Robert’s. He lives in a small community called Kembukas, tucked in the side of a hill with expansive views of the sea. Chickens and pigs roam along the dirt roads next to houses made of wood and thatch roofs. But the storm turned most of their houses into piles of debris and wrapped fragments of them around the trunks of broken trees.
Robert was at home with his son when Cyclone Pam ripped through. The strong winds blew the roof in on top of them. Unharmed, they sought shelter in another part of their house, but it caved in as well. Robert and his son then ran to a nearby evacuation center.
The islanders are used to storms passing through, but Robert said this time was different. Everyone was afraid.
“I’ve never seen a cyclone like this,” he said.
Our teams are working to provide help to thousands of families like Robert’s who live in hard-to-reach places of Vanuatu and to let them know they aren’t forgotten. For many, our support is the first they have received.
“These are God’s people here-just in a different part of the world-and they’re suffering and hurting,” Patrick said. “Our desire is to help. Whether we would do that for our neighbor who lives right next to us in the United States, or whether we would do that in another part of the world, they’re still our neighbor.”
Samaritan’s Purse was able to provide Robert’s family with cooking supplies, a hygiene kit, a jerry can, blankets, and the large, blue tarp that will be the first roof over their heads as they begin to restore their lives.
Robert climbed down the beams of his new shelter and smiled.
“This tarpaulin that my friends gave me will cover me and my family, and this will be our house,” he said.
Samaritan's Purse responds to humanitarian crises with physical aid and a message of spiritual hope for victims of natural disasters, famine, poverty, and war. Your gift will allow us to share Jesus' love through clean water, food, shelter, medical supplies, personnel, and other aid.