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Wednesday 17 March 2010 | Published in Regional


When Roxy Bifrare rang her mum in Switzerland the night before Cyclone Pat hit Aitutaki, she warned her that “something bad was coming” and she wasn’t sure she’d be able to ring the next day.

That night, Bifrare and her partner Allister Webb evacuated just before Cyclone Pat ripped their home to shreds, and blew Bifrare’s modem out with the wall. She wasn’t able to ring her mum, who meanwhile had contacted Roxy’s mate Cedric. Her mum and Cedric, anxiously awaiting news from south of the equator, hurriedly organised a fundraising drive to help the people of Aitutaki.

Cedric designed a Facebook page and another of Roxy’s mates, a Swiss journalist, published an article beseeching support. They spread the word at the school where Roxy taught prior to moving to Aitutaki, and students came forward to donate old clothes.

Her mum, students and friends in Switzerland gathered 300 kg of clothes, piled them into eight boxes and held a fundraiser to cover the cost of shipping them from Europe to Rarotonga via Air NZ.

Air Raro has agreed to transport the boxes free of charge to Aitutaki, and also paid for Roxy to come to Rarotonga to check that the transfer went smoothly.

Roxy said that she’s still got to figure out how to distribute the clothing, and has already asked people back home to send crayons and paper and supplies for schoolchildren.

“We’re doing whatever we can do, but it’s so far away,” Roxy said. “It’s just working so well. I’m really surprised.”

Roxy is grateful to everyone back home who made an effort to help the people of Aitutaki and to Air Raro.