When Cyclone Winston hit Fiji in February last year with winds of up to 300 kilometres per hour it devastated some of the country’s smallest communities.

Naitavuni Catholic Primary School, located 58 kilometres north of Suva, was hit hard by the category 5 cyclone.

It destroyed the main building, the surrounding community in the Waidina District, including important infrastructure critical to the operation of vegetable farming which dominates the area.

The 82 school children had been forced to learn in makeshift classrooms as they waited for new ones to be built.

However, building materials and labour was in short supply across the island.

The future for the school and its children looked bleak until the PAYCE Foundation stepped up to help out.

PAYCE Foundation director Dominic Sullivan said that through the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Suva, work commenced on planning to rebuild the school facilities.

“The children were being taught in makeshift classrooms that were not fit-for-purpose or conducive to good educational outcomes,” he said.

“The extreme weather events often disrupt the children’s education.”

Mr Sullivan said when PAYCE Foundation become involved in the project it aimed to provide new learning facilities that would not only withstand the weather but improve learning opportunities.

“Community groups and representatives were consulted so that a comprehensive understanding of the community’s needs could be achieved.”

The $350,000 project included a 192msq block to replace 4 classrooms destroyed by the cyclone and a fifth multi-purpose room for use as a library and/or computer lab.

“Our project managers were not only able to assist with planning and construction on the ground, but with new technology monitor the progress from Sydney,” Mr Sullivan said.

“It really was a great team effort and a great result for not only the children but the broader community.”

Mr Sullivan said it was a pleasure to join the children, parents and school staff for the opening of the facilities.

“It has been a very rewarding project for everyone involved” he said.

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