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Mormon Helping Hands volunteers help distribute food on March 22, 2015, to those affected by Cyclone Pam. The Church is providing 2,000 emergency food boxes for families, assembled by Mormon volunteers in New Zealand.

It wasn’t long after Cyclone Pam ripped through Vanuatu — a Pacific island nation roughly 1,000 miles northeast of Australia — on March 13 that local Church leaders and members began to rebuild homes.

Ten days after the storm — which uprooted many trees and destroyed up to 90 percent of all buildings in the hardest-hit areas — local Latter-day Saints had already rebuilt more than 20 indigenous-style homes in their community.

“Amidst all of this gloom arise a people, not broken like the trees or homes about them, but who gather whatever materials the cyclone left behind and start to rebuild their homes with optimism,” said Church Pacific Area welfare manager Hans Sorensen, who was in Vanuatu recently to assess damage and needs.

In addition to home building, the Church is providing the following items to those in need:

5,000 personal care kits (which include toothpaste, soap and other items). 3,000 liters of water and 1,000 refillable water containers with purification filters. 2,000 emergency food boxes, assembled by Mormon volunteers in New Zealand. 570 six-person tents. 200 cartons of milk powder. Machetes, axes, hammers and corrugated iron roofing nails to help people rebuild their homes. Seeds so families can replant their home gardens. Many people in Vanuatu rely on such gardens for food and income.

“It is deeply reassuring to hear reports that people are calm, working to recover and rebuild, and are helping their neighbors,” said Elder Kevin W. Pearson of the Seventy, who serves as the Church’s Pacific Area president. “As followers of Jesus Christ, we are absolutely committed to walk alongside our brothers and sisters in Vanuatu as they grieve, recover and rebuild. We are here for the long haul.”

The LDS Church News is an official publication of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The publication's content supports the doctrines, principles and practices of the Church.