Upon a rock is a good place to build, but before flood #1 in Ba last year, Rafele's home was built on the loamy soil of a river bank next to the home he previously had built for his mother. We came to love this family.
|The Vutagas with their youngest son|
As the water rushed in that January 2012 flood, there was little time to save belongings -- family first and a few other things were lifted through a roof panel and rescued. Sitting on the roof in the dark they heard the rushing water take their home down the river, and across a field and road, depositing its wreckage around a tree a few hundred yards away. Positioned near a river which was swollen with push back from a high tide and heavy rains on lowlands near the ocean, this area was particularly ravaged by the flood with nearly every un-stilted home badly damaged. Shorty thereafter we met the Vutaga family as we delivered assistance to the many flood survivors.
Picking themselves up in true Fijian fashion, Rafele began to gather construction supplies to build another home. Materials were scavenged from the old home and "supplies" providentially ferried in by the flood. The LDS Church also assisted and before long enough materials were assembled to begin construction. Two months after the flood, 6 foot pilings were standing erect anticipating a new structure higher off the ground.
History was to repeat itself. Night time slumber was again seized by flood #2 near the end of March and this time from the roof they watched all the new supplies and pilings disappear. Morning light brought the reality that they had lost everything, again. This is a story we've wanted to share but had to wait through the months of its making. For the next three months after the flood waters receded, Thursday mornings found us joining this tireless and creative man, along with his family and friends in building yet another home -- on rock (or at least, cement pillars).
|Even before the flood waters had all dried up, the new home began to take shape.|
Those trees on the far right once held pieces of their first home.
|Only enough available money to buy wood for one pillar casing at a time. After|
the cement dried, they disassembled the casing and built the next.
|Hand mixing the cement and carrying it to the pillar casing in a small tin pan kept up with|
the available wood for casing construction -- one pillar per day.
|The rounded top to this pillar need to be chipped away. When we asked|
where a chisel was, they pointed to a rusty nail on the ground. Progress
was slow, real slow, so the next day we added a chisel to their tool box.
Cement reinforcement forms from rebar and heavy wire were all created by hand - it seemed to go on forever. One day on our weekly service, Rafele told us how relieved he was to see us drive up since he simply could not face making another form. After a short apprenticeship, we were on our own and this became our chief task for the next several weeks.
An electrician by trade, Rafele took leave from his job and devoted full time to rebuilding their home during these months. In the flood plain near his home he also kept a casava field. The daily diet of casava means continual planting to keep up with future needs and regardless of his home re-construction, the farming couldn't be neglected.
|The reason there were so many wooden and rebar forms to build was that|
they were the main weight bearing structures.
|The wall of a cinderblock served tolerably well for straightening nails|
|Rafele's mother's home on left had water half way up the windows during flood #2|
|While Annie nailed the roof supports, one of the workers said:|
"We've never seen a Fijian woman do like this!"
|The crew: Rafele, his brother Josefa, a friend, and Uncle Pio|
|Cast off stick supports would become firewood - nothing lost or wasted!|
|Now that's a band saw blade!|
When the metal siding and roofing began to go up, we asked how they were cutting the metal so precisely since we knew they had no metal cutting tools. They proudly demonstrated the "poor-man's" technique -- which would make any rich man envious. Straight, true, and efficient they teamed up using a simple piece of wire and sheer pressure to make just the right cuts.
|Moved in the 2nd week of October, 2012|