Cyclone Pam through a child’s eyes

Last week marked the one month anniversary of Cyclone Pam that decimated nine-year-old Shayla's island home of Vanuatu. For her, the storm didn’t just shake the leaves from the trees, it changed her world completely.

“It’s not like it’s my normal world before - it’s like I’m dreaming now,” she says.

When Category Five Cyclone Pam slammed into Vanuatu on 13 March, it affected more than 166,000 people across 22 islands and impacted thousands of children like Shayla.

It was the worst cyclone to ever hit the country; tearing off roofs from buildings, flattening whole villages and uprooting large trees.

For Shayla and many children across Vanuatu, it was a frightening and traumatising experience. “I could hear iron sheets blowing off so I felt very scared. I thought the wind would blow our roof off. All the trees are gone.”

Shayla and her family spent the cyclone in her living room. It started to flood as the heavy rain came under the door, and her bedroom was also damaged by the water.

“The wind blew the shutters open, and my brother held the shutters until the morning.”

Cyclone Pam didn’t just destroy homes. It also destroyed schools, meaning children like Shayla were left without somewhere to learn. As vital infrastructure such as telecommunications were down, children were unable to contact their friends and family.

“I don’t go to school at the moment because the Prime Minister said no school for two weeks - I think because of the cyclone. I miss playing with my friends,” Shayla said.

Immediately after Cyclone Pam all schools in Vanuatu were closed. One month on, leaves are starting to sprout, children are back at school and homes are starting to be rebuilt.

As communities start to rebuild, organisations like World Vision are helping families and schools, to ensure life returns to normal as soon as possible for children like Shayla.

World Vision was able to distribute essential household items like kitchen sets and hygiene kits to families who lost everything during Cyclone Pam– and the simplest of items like cooking pots and soap are making a big difference to their long-term recovery.

As Vanuatu starts the process of rebuilding, World Vision will be helping schools - whose buildings were damaged by the cyclone - to set up temporary schools. We will also help students have access to basic supplies like pens and exercise books so that the children of Vanuatu can continue learning.

Whilst there will be ongoing challenges, this small country has shown big courage, and the support shown by the global community and resilience shown by the people of Vanuatu is helping towards the rebuilding effort.

Cyclone Pam was the biggest disaster to ever hit Vanuatu. In the aftermath, World Vision has so far managed to assist more than 10,000 people across the island group to access safe shelter, hygiene kits and kitchen kits. Thankfully, schools are slowly beginning to open again so that Shayla and her friends can continue their education together.

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