Letchworth teenager stunned after Cyclone Winston almost destroys Fijian village which was her home for four months

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A Letchworth teenager has been left stunned after a cyclone almost destroyed a Fijian village which had been her home for four months.

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The devastating effect of Tropical Cyclone Winston has left a trail of destruction on the main Fijian island of Viti Levu.

The cyclone – thought to be one of the worst storms to ever hit the southern hemisphere – has seen a death toll approaching 30 people, with many more injured.

Emma Ritchie, 18, who left St Francis’ College in the summer, worked as a volunteer for Global Vision International in the remote coastal of Silana between September and December last year.

The village where Emma lived, taught in a local school and worked on environmental projects has been almost completely destroyed.

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Shortly before she left, Emma saw the incinerator unit that she had helped to build commissioned – avoiding the need for burn pits that were leading to pollution in the local water supply. This has now been reduced to rubble.

Emma said: “I am heartbroken to see that the village I called home has been so badly hit.

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“There is nothing left of my adopted Fijian family’s home and they have been left with just the clothes they were wearing.

“All of the villagers are safe, they scrambled up the hill and took refuge in the school where I taught English to students.

“The people of Silana welcomed me into their homes. They shared what little they had with us and it was the happiest three months of my life. I developed so much during my time in Fiji.

“I urge people now to support me in trying to give back to these wonderful people who did so much for me by donating something, however small, to the fund.”

Elizabeth Foster, who is director of studies at St Francis’ College, said: “We are very proud of the work that Emma is doing to help this devastated village and her host Fijian family.

“At school, Emma distinguished herself as a first class linguist and as a young woman with a passion to understand and share the lives of people in other countries.

“We wish her success in her campaign to improve the lives of those affected by the cyclone.”

Emma added: “I want to say how grateful I am for the support my parents have given me at this time, and for their help in spreading the word.”

If you would like to donate to Emma’s adopted family and the other villagers of Silana to help rebuild their lives you can do so by searching for the Fiji Cyclone Winston Relief Fund on www.justgiving.com.