This week I was fortunate to be among the first tourists to return to Vanuatu after Cyclone Pam. On Sat Mar 14, 2015, category 5 Cyclone Pam, equivalent to Hurricane Katina, smashed into the tiny South Pacific island nation of Vanuatu (see ABC news article). For over 8 hours, arguably the happiest and kindest people on earth, suffered the wrath of Pam.
On my arrival everyone, from water taxi driver to shopkeeper to waitress to beautician wanted to tell of their experience as part of their personal recovery. They spoke of the surreal silence the next morning, as they wandered in shock, acknowledging fellow survivors with just a nod or smile while looking for friends or relatives and how during the course of the day the enormity of the aftermath slowly dawned.
In Port Vila, the nation’s capital, it resembled a war zone, but it was the lucky one. Outer islands and villages were decimated by the 300km winds and tidal surges. Most local residents of Port Vila come from these outer islands and villages and with no methods of communication or transport had no way of knowing the fate of their children, parents or other loved ones. To this scene the low fly-over of Royal Australian Air Force C-17 and C130s generated spontaneous cheering and clapping transforming a defeated victim mentality to one of hope and action.
It may be too early to cite as a Case Study, but certainly there are lessons business can learn from the successful Disaster Management (as opposed to Disaster Planning) following Pam. In just 4 weeks after the disaster, where in New Orleans they were still “debating” recovery responsibilities, Vanuatu has moved on to the economic recovery phase by welcoming back tourists.
If you are after (or would like) the motivation for what you can actually achieved in 4 weeks, forget the Tony Robbins tapes and NLP workshops, do yourself a favour (sorry Molly) and get over to Vanuatu, and I guarantee you will come back rewarded.
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