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University of Hawaii teachers and students initiate relief funding for Cyclone Winston victims

Editor's Note: This message was sent to me by Ashley McGuigan from the University of Hawaii who has established fund raising efforts to aid Fiji.

Cyclone Winston

On February 20-21, 2016 the strongest cyclone ever recorded in the Southern Hemisphere pummeled Fiji leaving destruction, death, and shock in its wake. Reaching gusts of up to 200 miles per hour, category-5 Super Cyclone Winston tore straight through the heart of Fiji and has left no person untouched. Unfortunately, some of the communities hardest hit are those those in the most isolated and vulnerable parts of Fiji where we, students are researchers at the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa, have worked over the past four years. 

Who We Are
My name is Ashley McGuigan and I am a PhD student in the Botany Department at the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa. I am also part of a larger group of students and researchers who have been working with 20 rural villages across Fiji to understand how traditional knowledge adapts and changes over time and how this helps communities be resilient to natural disasters, such as Cyclone Winston. This knowledge is innovative and incorporates new technologies that promote progress and stability in unpredictable island environments.

The Problem
Some of the people that were worst affected by the cyclone were our friends and colleagues from the Kubulau, Nakorotubu, and Wainikeli districts within this 20 village network. Emergency aid is doing amazing work meeting the most urgent needs of the Fijian people (food, water, shelter). However, when this aid leaves, additional support will be needed to to help them rebuild critical community centers and gathering spaces that were destroyed in the cyclone. These meeting spaces are critically important to help rebuild and regain stability, especially for the young children.

The Solution
What this campaign will do is ensure aid continues in the months ahead. As these communities rebuild their lives, through this campaign we will help support their long-term effort of rebuilding their community centers. We cannot help all of Fiji, but we would like to focus our efforts in a few of these communities, that have become a part of our University of Hawai'i at Mānoa community, to make the largest impact we can and show our love and support for the people who have been so kind to us.

How you can Help
I would like to ask for your support in this initiative by donating to this campaign and helping these people overcome this terrible disaster. 100% of your donation will go directly to communities in the Kubulau, Nakorotubu, and Wainikeli districts. Our research team was actually scheduled to return to Fiji the same day Cyclone Winston hit. However, we have now postponed our trip until after May 2016 to allow communities to assess their needs and communicate this with to our in-country collaborators who we will be working with to collect and deliver the necessary materials when we return. 

Please read more about us, the people we work with, our project and goals, and how we will carry out these initiatives at the funding raising site below. Feel free to share this via email, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media. Together we can make a real difference in the lives of these people. You can also contact me if you would like more information.

You can donate at

Thank you and Loloma Levu,
Ashley McGuigan

Botany PhD Student - Concentration in Ethnobotany 
Department of Botany 
University of Hawai'i at Mānoa
3190 Maile Way, St. John 101
Honolulu, HI 96822 USA


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