Honouring Samoa: A Young Survivor Pays Tribute to the Village Boy Who Helped Her

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A Call for More Volunteer Builders and Tradespeople to Samoa; 10 More Homes Now Under Construction

Village of Saleaumua, South Coast of Upolu, Samoa: Three fales now complete. Volunteer builders and tradespeople from New Zealand, organised by Habitat for Humanity NZ, work alongside local villagers and tsunami-affected families to rebuild homes. NZ & Aus Aid to the Samoan Government covers about 90 percent of the costs and Australia has stipulated that building materials and supplies, where-ever possible, be purchased locally to help stimulate the local Samoan economy. Photo courtesy of Habitat for Humanity NZ/David Lawson.

A call for more volunteer builders, electricians, plumbers and drainlayers to head to Samoa. You are needed to join the teams in January 2010. These are two week work periods. For more information, contact Habitat for Humanity  directly by clicking here

[tweetmeme]Habitat for Humanity New Zealand sent through the following photos to pacificEyeWitness.org yesterday afternoon. He says three homes are now complete and 10 under construction. Volunteer builders and tradespeople from New Zealand have been recruited by Habitat for Humanity NZ, who are project managing the Samoa Government’s rebuilding of tsunami-destroyed homes along the South Coast of Upolu.

The Government is paying for 90 percent of the costs with Habitat for Humanity NZ still needing more donations to help fund the remainder of the work they are doing. In addition to the Government rebuilding programme, church organisations in Samoa such as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are rebuilding homes as well although they have not required the help of Habitat, or Government, to do that. They are independently financing the rebuilding of their member’s homes and chapels through Latter-day Saints member voluntary contributions from around the world, from what we understand.

(L)Samoa Prime Minister Sailele Malielegaoi Tuilaepa and Caroline Bilkey, NZ High Commissioner to Samoa, at the opening of the first fales. Photo courtesy of Habitat for Humanity NZ/David Lawson.

Volunteers & Habitat for Humanity NZ

Thank you to David Lawson at Habitat for Humanity for sending these photos. Plus, a special thank you, and debt of gratitude to all New Zealanders – builders and tradespeople – and others alike (we understand a team from the Waikato Times newspaper have volunteered) who have, and will be, volunteering their time to rebuild Samoa and the Tongan island of Niuatoputapu.

All volunteers are staying in the Church Hall at the village of Lepa on the South Coast of Upolu. Local Samoans are taking care of all volunteer meals. We know that they will do everything they can, in the Samoan way, to take care of New Zealand’s builders and tradesperson, and make sure they are well fed after a long day’s work.

Fa’afetai tele lava.

Related Stories

First Two Homes Completed

How Samoa Is Funding The Rebuilding; Building Schedule

Update on First Two Homes Completed

Habitat for Humanity NZ Samoa & Tonga Rebuilding on Track; FEMA Tells American Samoa “Not Quite There Yet’

Habitat For Humanity Calling for Volunteer Tradespeople For Samoa

Overview: Disaster Relief and Rebuilding Efforts in Samoa

Habitat for Humanity Seeking Builders To Help Rebuild Samoa


What Decisions Would You Make In A Disaster? Tsunami Lessons from 2004 Boxing Day

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Boxing Day, 26 December, 2004, is a day few will forget. That’s the day the Asian Tsunami unleashed its fury for thousands of miles across 13 countries -Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Maldives-  leaving  230,000 people dead and half a million injured. Millions of people’s lives were forever changed by the tragic events of that day. For those  used to working in recovery and disaster relief work, the Boxing Day tsunami was a challenge like no other. It presented what seemed like impossible recovery.

For the British Red Cross, one of the main relief and recovery agencies involved post-Asian Tsunami, it was their largest recovery effort since World War II. Armed with 30,000 Red Cross volunteers, the Red Cross spent £84.9million in its recovery effort.

[tweetmeme]Five years later, it looks back at the tragedy and  reviews the long road to recovery. In the process, they’ve come up with a simulated challenge that literally puts you and I in the role of a decision maker at a tsunami disaster. Based on real life  situations the British Red Cross were faced with, the interactive hands-on approach means you get to vicariously experience some of the challenges those on the front line faced.

Through a new interactive challenge, Decisions for Recovery, you can walk in the shoes of those who led recovery from the disaster. Drawing from the real-life dilemmas Red Cross staff faced, Decisions for Recovery, puts you to the test as the decision maker.

When so many are suffering, who do you help first? What kind of help do you offer and how do you decide between quick fixes which meet immediate needs and frustratingly slow but sustainable long-term projects?

As a disaster recovery manager for the British Red Cross, it’s up to you to direct and co-ordinate the Tsunami response, help rebuild lives and recover a future for people who have lost everything.

Alastair Burnett, British Red Cross Disaster Recovery Manager says he feels very proud of what the Red Cross achieved to help rebuild people’s lives, and more than that, build them back stronger.

“The challenges were enormous, the decisions – as people visiting the website will see – were incredibly difficult,” said Burnett.

“We were faced with the most difficult decisions of our lives, decisions that affected hundreds of thousands of people whose lives were destroyed by the tsunami.

“The support we received from the public was phenomenal and enabled us to mount our largest recovery effort since the Second World War. Now we want to tell the story of how the money people gave was spent and the difference it has made to people’s lives.”

Check it out and play the challenge. We did and it was thought-provoking. It’s a very handy useful website for disaster preparedness information.  The interactive challenge gives you an insight into the recovery decisions made, or not made, in the aftermath of the Pacific Tsunami which hit Samoa, American Samoa and the Tongan island of Niuatoputapu on Tuesday 29th September 2009.

Decisions for Recovery’can be found at www.recoveringafuture.org.uk/challenge.

Fast Facts Boxing Day 2004 Tsunami

3 kilometres that the wave travelled inland

9 number on the Richter scale of the earthquake triggering the tsunami

13 number of countries affected

20 meters high – the wave that hit Indonesia

40 the number of countries with people dead in the tsunami

500 km per hour the wave travelled at

23,000 equivalent number of Hiroshima-sized atomic bombs it would take to release as much energy

30,000 Red Cross volunteers involved in the operation

230,000 people who died

500,000 people injured

1,500,000 children wounded, displaced or lost family

4,500,000 people who received recovery assistance from the Red Cross

5,000,000 people who lost homes, or access to food and water.


Total houses built: 2,936

  • Indonesia: 2,212
  • Sri Lanka: 258
  • Maldives: 466


Total number of beneficiaries: 133,962 (calculated by average number in household)

  • Indonesia: 34,068
  • Sri Lanka: 91,644
  • Maldives: 8,250

Number of direct beneficiaries (people who received grants)

  • Indonesia: 11,356
  • Sri Lanka: 22,911
  • Maldives: 1,650

Honouring Samoa: A Survivor Retells the Day The Tsunami Hit The South Coast

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[tweetmeme] This story is written by a young Samoan woman who survived Samoa’s tsunami. Because of its length, it will be posted as a three part series. When we first heard of  this young woman’s experience, we contacted her to see if she would be willing to share her story with our readers, in her own words.  Her name is Steph. Here’s an excerpt from what she wrote to us in which she stresses the need to hear other people’s stories:

Other stories are more miraculous than mine but I’m thankful I have somewhere to voice what happened where others cannot, and believe me, there are other stories from that disaster that I hopefully will be told to the world. God bless. Steph

In honour of all the dead, the victims, and survivors of Samoa and Tonga’s Tsunami.

By Steph Fa’amatala

This story is dedicated to Kenape the boy who held onto me.

My mother, my son and myself all travelled to Western Samoa on the 19th September 2009. We were heading to a village in Saanapu Tai on Upolu Island, where most of my mother’s family lived.

On the Tuesday 29th September 2009, between  6:30 to 7:30 in the morning, the earthquake struck.  As the earth continued to tremble, my mother, my aunties, and all the elderly ladies were trying to get us kids out of bed, and out of the house, using those held samoan- made brooms, known as salu lima.

Photo frames were falling off the walls, flower necklaces, pictures, stereo and TV, all falling off.  The computer fell off its table. Our suitcases fell off the tables it was on. Chairs were falling over backwards.

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Us elder kids grabbed the little ones and tried to run out of the house. It was difficult as the ground was shaking so bad  that you could not even walk straight. Everything was smashing all around us. The little ones were crying. The elders were screaming from outside to get out. The older boys were carrying the elderly up behind the houses and huts towards the hills and mountains. The little kids who were all dressed for school, were running up the hill, laughing, happy thinking, this is a game.

I grabbed my mother’s bag, and our passports, that were in our suitcases. I looked around and everyone was just standing around talking about what just happened. My mother and her sisters, were just telling us to run for the hills and to get away from the houses.

We started moving towards the hills but the majority of the villagers were still standing around wondering what happened … ( as Samoans sometimes do,) when the minister drove past in his car in a hurry and screamed that a tsunami was coming.

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Everyone was for their own self after that. We were running but it was hard to run up the hill. I was wearing se’evae kosokoso (sandals), and the grass was high, the bushes were thick, the trees and shrubs were sharp but the loud explosion was what kept us going. It was an explosion like a bomb had been set off.  Then there was a noise like a rushing sound only louder. Little did we know, as we were rushing up that hill, that the sound was the waves coming towards us.

Someone pushes me upwards and forwards. I’m pushing a neighbour’s child up the hill and pulling my cousin with me. I look far up ahead and see my mother crying and looking out towards the ocean behind me. I hear children screaming. The older boys are yelling:
Faakope le kamo’e la ua sau le galu! (“Run faster the wave is coming!”), kamomo’e! (“Run”).
I turn quickly only to see the house that we slept in half an hour before look so tiny against the big waves. It was a sight that i’ll never forget for the rest of my life. I look towards the bottom of the hill. There are still people coming…I knew that they might not make it.

I prayed and I cried. I knew what was coming and that some of us might not make it. I was shocked.

I see a man hold a woman to a tree and then throws himself around her and pushes her into the tree. I see men holding onto each other and holding onto fences that were the entrance to the hill. I knew I had to run but I couldn’t stop watching.

Someone slaps me on the head and screams, Aikae Kamoe! (S***t, run!”). It was my older cousin. He had already taken the kids off me and had ran straight pass me. I don’t remember much after that, but I knew that I had just keep going.

Click here for Part 2 Kenape: Suga, aumai lou lima kago e fusi mau a’u ae o lea o le a ou kaupe i le laau...Girl, give me your hand, try and hold me tight, and I will hold onto a tree.


Auckland University Staff & Students Donations Fill Up Two Container Loads for Lalomanu

[tweetmeme]By Danelle Clayton

Lalomanu village in Samoa, which was devastated by the September tsunami, has received two container loads of donated supplies from staff and students of The University of Auckland.

Building supplies, food, kitchen utensils, bedding, medicine and toiletries were collected in a shipping container at the Faculty of Education in Epsom, with donations also sent from the University’s city campus and some schools.

Dean of the Faculty of Education, Associate Professor Graeme Aitken, was moved to assist Lalomanu after speaking to Ben Taufua shortly after the tragedy. Ben, from Lalomanu, is a member of the Pasifika Education Advisory Group, which advises the Faculty on Pacific matters. He lost thirteen members of his family to the tsunami.

“It was a very humbling experience to talk to someone who has lost so much,” Dr Aitken says.

The Faculty of Education’s Associate Dean Pasifika, Dr Meaola Toloa, says while the goods will assist with basic needs such as food, shelter and clothing, there is still much to be done before the village can fully recover.

“It will make a difference in the meantime but we need to keep an open mind that there is still work to be done on sustaining life for the long term,” Dr Toloa says. She and Dr Aitken led a group from the Faculty of Education to visit the village in November to see the devastation and offer support to villagers.

“Normally there would be lots of people around but the beach was barren and deserted with everything stripped. Down on the beach we saw just one survivor with his head bandaged, and we saw very few children. The fact we couldn’t locate many people to talk to just shows how bad it is.”

With the village virtually destroyed, staff and students were asked to donate practical goods to help Lalomanu rebuild. Many included a personal note and extras like children’s toys, crayons and colouring books. An empty shipping container placed on the front lawn of the Faculty’s Epsom Campus was quickly filled, and a second was made available to take extra goods.

Dr Toloa expressed her thanks on behalf of the staff and students in the Faculty who have lost close family members. The Faculty has also made allowances for its large numbers of Samoan students, some of whom interrupted their studies to return to Samoa to support their families.


Photos: Our Writer on Two Weeks Volunteering in Samoa Post-Tsunami

Photos taken by Malia Tu’ai Manuleleua and Pastor Ron Westwood

Along the South Coast of Upolu, on Tuesday 29th September 2009, over 140 people lost their lives, over 300 injured, crops ruined, villages, schools, clinics, fales and some resorts destroyed leaving thousands homeless, hungry and destitute after an 8.3 earthquake triggered a destructive tsunami. American Samoa and Niutoputapu lost over 40 lives.

PEW writer Malia Tua’i Manuleleua recently returned from Samoa after volunteering with the Psycho-Social Response teams working in tsunami-affected villages along the South Coast of Upolu. One of about 70 or so local and overseas volunteers, Malia was part of a team assessing the physical, spiritual and mental health needs of individuals and families affected.

They worked in the villages of Ti’avea Tai, Vaovai and Saleaumua. Other team members: Ruta Sinclair, Team Leader and local volunteer; Pastor Ron Westbrook, Assembly of God, Australia; David Lui (NZ), and Peone Afamasaga (Samoa). They identified those who required counselling and further specialist services.  Other teams visited families in all the affected villages along the southern-west and east coastline from Siumu, Falealili to Aleipata including the small island of Manono.

In the photos are a mix of volunteers working on the South Coast of Upolu, including an Air New Zealand pilot(he’s wearing a black T-shirt with white koru design), who volunteered during his rest break.

There are also photos of the following: local staff at Samoa’s National Hospital in the ward of tsunami survivors; staff at Disaster Management Office showing crops and checking through goods received and distributed; Village of Saleaaumua: Malia interviewing an elederly gentleman on his needs; a picture of a swamp where five people lost their lives; a village mechanic and his boys helping a stranger/volunteer to get his car back on the road after the axle broke.

We Were Walking Among Angels; On-The-Ground Insight Into Samoa’s Aid & Relief Work

Along the South Coast of Upolu, on Tuesday 29th September 2009, over 140 people lost their lives, over 300 injured, crops ruined, villages, schools, clinics, fales and some resorts destroyed leaving thousands homeless, hungry and destitute after an 8.3 earthquake triggered a destructive tsunami. American Samoa and Niutoputapu lost over 40 lives.

This is Part 2 of a two part post by our newest PEW writer Malia Tua’i Manuleleua who has recently returned from Samoa after volunteering with the Psycho-Social Response teams working in tsunami-affected villages along the South Coast of Upolu. One of about 70 or so local and overseas volunteers, Malia was part of a team assessing the physical, spiritual and mental health needs of individuals and families affected.

They worked in the villages of Ti’avea Tai, Vaovai and Saleaumua. Other team members: Ruta Sinclair, Team Leader and local volunteer; Pastor Ron Westbrook, Assembly of God, Australia; David Lui (NZ), and Peone Afamasaga (Samoa). They identified those who required counselling and further specialist services.  Other teams visited families in all the affected villages along the southern-west and east coastline from Siumu, Falealili to Aleipata including the small island of Manono.

Malia describes what she saw during her two weeks in Samoa. We published Part 1 yesterday. This is Part 2.

Click here to read Part 1

A young chld who survived the tsunami staying at Samoa's National Hospital. Photo: Malia Tua'i Manuleleua

We Were Walking Among Angels

By Malia Tua’i Manuleleua

On white Sunday we visited the Tsunami Ward at the national hospital with Elena Peteru, a local counselor at the University of the South Pacific. We gave out the crunchie bars and lollies to the tsunami survivors, children, parents and hard working staff, gifted from Cook Island friends Dr Tapu Rairi and Bernard Tairea. We also delivered medical supplies to Lalomanu Hospital from Dr Joe Williams from the Mt Wellington Accident & Family Health clinic.  Tauilili Paul Stowers and his son Daniel had travelled from Wellington with suitcases of clothes and food for the tsunami victims and gave them out randomly to villagers along the affected coastline.  Such has been the overflowing spirit of love and compassion from all.

A whole nation rallied together to take whatever was in their cupboards, in their pockets to those in need.

It has been the same with a tidal wave of assistance from all corners of the world, New Zealand, Australia, Germany, UK, USA, Middle East, Asia etc.  The giving and receiving has been overwhelming.

Family living makeshift at Saleaaumua. Photo: Malia Tua'i Manuleleua

Samoans and non-Samoans have worked shoulder to shoulder, offering freely of their time, skills, knowledge, love and compassion for the cause. Most working more than 12 hour shifts, weekends, some forced to go home out of sheer exhaustion, some sleeping where they lay their weary heads.

In the villages, despite the circumstances, families welcomed us into their tents or makeshift fales, offered us water and food and still managed to give us a warm, dignified smile.   It was a humbling experience.

When our 4wheel drive was stuck in the sand at Ti’avea Tai, the village boys pushed it to firmer ground.  When driving back to the main road, up the rough access track, our trucks right rear wheel hung off a ditch a metre deep.  Elderly women, men and small children in the tents came to our aid and helped to lift and push the truck back onto the road- amazingly, we achieved this on one attempt.

At Saleaumua, the next day the axle of a private vehicle belonging to one of our volunteers snapped.  In seconds we were surrounded by villagers who quickly summoned Lino the village mechanic.  He and his boys were able to get it back on the road within 3 hours.  Considering the complexity of the job and limited tools at their disposable it was a small miracle.

A local village mechanic, and his boys, freely help fix the axle of a volunteer's car after it snapped along the South Coast of Upolu. These acts of kindness from local Samoans in the tsunami-affected areas were commonplace . Photo: Malia Tua'i Manuleleua.

We were definitely walking among angels.

But that is who we are as a people, always looking out for each other. It is how we have been raised and live our lives. This tragedy has made us realise and appreciate that even more today.

Soon after we were blessed with heavy showers from the heavens that cooled us from the heat, cleansed the dirt from our faces, and quenched our thirst till the next day.

We met a puppy called Sunami, talked to children, mothers, fathers, a blind woman, a disabled person, a fisherman, a planter, a teacher, a carpenter, a shop keeper, a taxi-driver, a beach fale operator, ministers and their wives, matais (chiefs) two 90 year old great grandmothers, a pre-school teacher, a 12 year old school girl and many many more.

Each had their own remarkable heroic story to tell- stories of survival and loss, of incredible acts of kindness, of bravery.  Some emotionally, physically exhausted, dazed and lost, some philosophical and strong, grateful to be alive, and a gentle acceptance that it is Gods will and that life must go on.

Disaster Management Office. Root crops donated for the tsunami-affected families. Photo: Malia Tu'ai Manuleleua.

So many lives changed on the 29 September.  As a nation, Samoa has endured so much together, of great tragedy and sorrow, of great joy, great courage and great resilience. And the world has stood beside this little country in the middle of the Pacific ocean.  These are definitely days to remember.  Mistakes will be made, we are only human.  But let us not forget the bountiful good that has been done and will no doubt continue.

On my last visit to Vaovai a matai farewelled us with a familiar biblical verse, “O oe o le Isaraelu moni…” to express his deep gratitude for all who assisted and gave so generously in his time of need, from all over Samoa, New Zealand, Australia, Cook Islands, Fiji, United Kingdom, USA, Germany, Middle East, Asia from all four corners of the world.

The work by all has been heart-wrenching and yet so uplifting.  We came to give but what we gave was nothing compared to what we received.

More photos