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

Cry The Beloved Country; On-The-Ground Insight into Samoa’s Aid & Relief Work

South Coast of Upolu Samoa after the tsunami of 29th September 2009. Photo: Malia Tua'i Manuleleua.

Welcome to our latest writer at pacificEyeWitness.org: Malia Tua’i Manuleleua. She’s recently returned from Samoa after volunteering as part of 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.

Along the South Coast of Upolu, 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.

Malia describes what she saw during her two weeks in Samoa. This will be posted in two parts.

Tiavea Tai villagers from the South Coast of Upolu, Samoa, living in the hills

Tiavea Tai villagers from the South Coast of Upolu, Samoa, living in makeshift shelter in the hills. Photo: Malia Tua'i Manuleleua.

Part 1 begins now.

By Malia Tua’i Manuleleua

Samoa has not been down this road before.  We have seen cyclones like Val and Ofa come and go. But not on this level of destruction, devastation and loss of life, at an estimated cost of 260 million tala, according to latest figures from the World Bank.

Having just returned from Samoa early last week where I volunteered with the Psycho-Social Response Team under the direction of Samoa’s National Health Service, Ministry of Health, I question the reports of aid not getting through.

That is not what I saw.

Assessing the post-tsunami needs of villagers in Saleaaumua. Our PEW writer Malia worked as a volunteer for Samoa's Psycho-Social Response Team under the direction of National Health Services of the Ministry of Health. Photo credit: Pastor Ron Westbrook.

Ninety-five percent of the 60 family clusters, made up of 6 to 13 people, we interviewed had received either tarpaulin, tents, clothing, pots, pans, cutlery, sacks of rice, tinned fish, biscuits, bottled water, water tanks, army installed toilets which were clearly visible on our visits.

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A few families requested additional tents (1) and water tanks (1) and specific items such as work tools and other domestic equipment. But overall families were adequately supplied and were very grateful for the flow of assistance coming through to them.  Team members stationed in other villages reported similar coverage and feedback.

Volunteers and other relief workers at Samoa's Disaster Management Office at Vaitele. This is where goods and relief were distributed from to villages and families in need. Photo: Malia Tua'i Manuleleua.

There had been a few families who had missed out on receiving assistance but in our view these were isolated cases. They were dealt with promptly by the Disaster Management Office (DMO), Red Cross, Latter Day Saints (LDS) Humanitarian Services and other authorities.  It was not as widespread as has been suggested in recent media reports, and in most cases, there were simple explanations.

In spite of these hiccups, the tremendous work continues by volunteers and those at the coal face of this tragedy since day one.


A typical early morning in Samoa in the weeks after the tsunami one would see a busy flurry of aid relief activity starting with various teams of relief and outreach workers, counselors from all sectors, public health, mental health, doctors, nurses and psychologists.

Samoa’s National Hospital’s Clinical Director, Lemalu Dr Limbo Liu, directed a brave team of drivers.

Fuimaono Karl Pulotu-Endemann facilitating training for Samoa's Psycho-Social Response team, Ministry of Health, Apia. Our PEW writer Malia, who works as a health professional by day in New Zealand, was one of the volunteers on this team. Photo: Malia Tua'i Manuleleua.

There were the staunch, passionate women at Samoa Umbrella for Non-Government Organisations (SUNGO) headquarters at Motootua. Disaster Management Office (DMO), Red Cross and other locations organising their troops and supplies. All destined for the southern-west/east coast of Upolu and Manono.

Other organisations and groups: Tsunami Samoa 09, Tsunami Samoa 2009 Appeal Charitable Trust, churches, businesses, families and individuals would be doing the same to ensure that every family in the disaster zone was provided for.

Enroute to our designated villages, it was a common sight to meet an army of different teams in the villages, or on the road.In addition the Electric Power Corporation (EPC) workers would be continuing their work of erecting posts and connecting cables.

Water Authority trucks, would be delivering water to families. And the boys in green from New Zealand and Australian Armies were also lending a hand wherever needed. The fruits of their labor in the form of water tanks and toilets dotted around the villages.

Water trucks delivering water at Aleipata district along the South Coast of Upolu, Samoa. Photo: Malia Tua'i Manuleleua.

Many villagers had relocated five kms inland and were rebuilding permanent to semi-permanent structures using materials they were able to salvage from destroyed houses.   Others with surplus funds brought in new timber and iron roofing from Apia.

Local radio and TV stations broadcast daily reports of local fundraising appeals and relief activities.  The other week, the Congregational Christian Church donated a million tala to the cause and other denominations have followed suit. Local businesses have also pitched in, like renowned Pinati’s Restaurant, who took food and supplies last week to the affected villages.

Photo: Malia Tua'i Manuleleua.

As we were visiting families at Vaovai, a bus load of people from Asau had just arrived from Savaii bearing bundles of mats, clothes and root crops for Nu’uausala Touli’s family who had lost two grandchildren.  These goods adding to the already abundant supplies received from relief organisations weeks earlier.

Reverend Tautasi Fa’alemiga, the Seventh Day Adventist Minister at Saleaumua, was one of a very few whose vehicle, a blue mini-Suzuki, had escaped the wrath of the tsunami.  The Suzuki was now being used as a free shuttle-bus by the whole village transporting 3-4 people at a time, food, wood and roofing iron, anything and everything that the small car could carry.  It made several trips throughout the day to and from the inland access road and the main road where many have moved.

Photo: Malia Tu'ai Manuleleua.

One of the first on the ground after the tsunami was Tima Leavai Peteru a local lawyer, who rushed to the disaster zone with food, blankets and water.  Tua’i Peter Ripley a local businessman in Apia, still dazed from the experience, said he just loaded up his workers on his truck and went immediately out to Lalomanu to help in rescue efforts transporting the dead and injured to the hospital.

Many others did the same.

Part 2:  We Were Walking Among Angels, writes Malia. More on that tomorrow.

Eulogy: Tuifeamalo Tuatagaloa Annandale; Tui Annandale, Sinalei Reef Resort

Tui Annandale, wife of Joe Annandale, at Vavau Beach Resort December 2003. Tui lost her life rescuing children caught in the tsunami of 29th September 2009. The Annandales are owners of Sinalei Reef Resort, South Coast of Upolu. The resort, which was severely damaged by the tsunami, will be re-opened early 2010. Photo credit: Malvern Atherton. Published with permission courtesy of Malvern Atherton, nephew of Tui and Joe.

Eulogy: Tuifeamalo Tuatagaloa Annandale

Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Ta’isi,
Tanumapua Plantation
29 September 2009

I was hesitant to talk last night because I was aware of Tui’s discomfort with politics, politicians and status. My reservation was allayed when Tuatagaloa asked me after the service to say something this morning. I decided to speak because I felt that his request was also hers.

Nothing becomes Tui more than the manner of her leaving. As Carol, said last night, in this tragedy she put the safety of her mother and Joe before her own – a gesture underlining selflessness and humility.

Her family admits that her funeral was carefully planned and today one senses that she’s still very much in command. She has orchestrated the time and space: the order of the rituals, liturgies and testimonies. The programme was and is: the funeral within twenty four hours of death; a quiet family service at 8pm; a funeral service at Tanumapua at 5.30am; and her burial at Siusega. All this is metaphor for moving on lest we dwell too long on death and tragedy – a salutary lesson not only for our family but also for a grieving nation.

As the wife of Tuatagaloa, she is entitled to the protocols, rituals and conventions befitting the funeral of the wife of a Falealili grandee. This includes a funeral service at the official residence of Tuatagaloa in Poutasi. But, in opting for less fanfare, Tui was and is claiming space: space for privacy.

She wanted a funeral where the ambiance would be markedly different in tone and context; she simply wanted to move on with grace. Whereas she became the mainstay of the Poutasi hierarchy, in the end she preferred a quiet and private funeral.

Her outstanding gift to us was the example of how she eased her way with finesse and aplomb through the different corridors of Samoan society. She would reincarnate herself many times, sometimes all in the same day. One moment she could be entrepreneur, the next a chair of a charitable organization, or Board member of an art or culture group, or a lead person in the village women’s committee, or a delegate to an annual Malua EFKS Fono tele.

All this achieved with quiet wit, thoughtfulness and grace. Through this she brought people from different persuasions and cultures together. This is high achievement.

She saw the Sinalei staff not as workers or employees to be bullied or put down but as human beings that you need to work in partnership with. She did not pretend to a knowledge or expertise that she did not have. She was quite comfortable in learning from others or from books. She was successful in the village because she had the common touch; she understood people and was humble and modest.

How did she do it? Through an innate sense of humility. Whether she knew it or not, her humility gave her an uncanny insight into what the Bible refers to in Ecclesiastes as the “vanity of vanities”.

Tui was humble yet not meek. She sought and celebrated simplicity which was not simple because of the allusions to metaphor and nuance. She was most accommodating and alluring when she stood firm on what she believed to be principle.

Tui was a deeply spiritual person. For her, God was not distant and formidable; God was always present and an integral part of loving. He was present when she planted flowers, when they sprouted, budded, blossomed, bloomed and withered. He was present in her love of animals, especially in her love for her dogs. He was truly present for her when the sun rose and set. He was present when she loved Joe, her family, friends and especially the disadvantaged. He was present when she and Joe prayed in the morning and in the evening.

Knowing her, she would have prayed for the last time for the safety of Joe, her mother Anna and Tafa her mother’s nurse. I believe God heard and heeded her prayer.

If I’m struggling to capture the essence of Tui, then I invite you to take a good look at her face, her glow, her gentle smile and her sense of inner peace. That is her legacy.

I loved Tui dearly for a very simple reason: she loved Joe, and because of this love, Joe and her family and all who came in contact with her became better people.


Editor’s Note: We posted Tui Annandale eulogy earlier as part of a collection of tributes. This time, however, it is being reposted on its own. Among the many memories  of this humble lady of Samoa, Tui possibly first came to national attention as the very first Miss Samoa beauty queen.


Habitat for Humanity and Samoa & Tonga Rebuilding On Track; American Samoa “Not Quite There Yet”

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Aerial view of devastation along the coastline of American Samoa following the 8.3 magnitude strong earthquake which struck on Tuesday 29th September, triggering a destructive tsunami which claimed 34 lives in American Samoa.

Six weeks after a destructive tsunami killed more than 140 along the South Coast of Upolu, Samoa’s emergency relief aid stage has made way for the rebuilding phase.

Government-appointed project managers, Habitat for Humanity New Zealand, say initial assessments are 425 “transitional shelter houses” are needed in Samoa. Niuatoputapu, where 9 people lost their lives, schools and hospital destroyed, 79 homes are needed.

As already reported here, Habitat, a small New Zealand-based not-for-profit compared to its USA counterpart, has been asked to oversee the rebuilding of 325 of those government-funded homes, and 25 homes funded by Caritas, a Catholic aid agency.

It is expected that the house tally will rise, Habitat says, as there are still families who have not yet added their names to the master list of those who lost their homes in the tsunami.

Rebuilding is scheduled to take place over an eight month period from November 2009 to June 2010. They aim to complete two fales per working day, or ten fales each week, to meet their building target.

At least two other NGOs, such as the Catholic Diocese and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, are independently funding, project managing, and building at least 75 fales for their members and others affected in the tsunami.

So that’s the latest on the rebuilding work in Samoa right now. Habitat for Humanity NZ are aiming to have NZ volunteer tradespeople teamed up with local Samoan builders. Each team will be a mix of skilled and unskilled workers, although Habitat are hoping to send over as many skilled tradespeople as possible. They’ll spend two week stints. Please note: volunteers, this is an experience you need to pay for. Volunteer costs to pay upfront to Habitat? Approx $1200. That includes return airfares, three meals a day, basic accommodation. If you want to stay longer to help, it’s $35 extra a day. Click here to sign up.

How did Habitat for Humanity NZ get involved?

They flew over to Samoa, proposal in hand, and approached the Government of Samoa directly. On the 21st of October at 10.30am, Habitat met with Tuisugaletaua Aliimalemanu Sofara Aveau, the Minister of Works Transport and Infrastructure. Twenty minutes into the meeting, the Minister invited Habitat to project manage the rebuilding based on their proposal. He also invited them to attend a meeting  later that afternoon with five builder suppliers companies.

That  humble direct approach from Habitat for Humanity saw it kick start the Samoa Government’s official rebuilding phase.

What we have not mentioned here is that, aside from homes to rebuild, there are also schools, hospital clinics and other buildings to rebuild along the South Coast of Upolu, and in Niuatoputapu.

Habitat for Humanity NZ’s Proposal to Samoa on 21st October 2009 ( In brief)

They(Government of Samoa) fund the 325 houses with $18,000 Tala each (NZ$12,000). Yesterday the Samoan Government had decided upon a 7.2 x 4.8 metre Fale house plan, and it was costed by them at this price, including a separate toilet & shower unit and septic tank. This price excluded any labour component.

Habitat For Humanity NZ act as Project Manager to build the 325 houses, inclusive provision of Kiwi volunteer labour to facilitate and lead the rebuilding programme. This includes:

a) That we are a Christian ministry and are doing this to serve the Samoan people after the tsunami disaster, that we are a not for profit organisation and there is no gain in this rebuilding programme for Habitat NZ.

b) That we wished to work in partnership with the Samoan Government and other NGOs, and ensure the rebuilding process is well coordinated and avoids doubling up.

Full proposal details available here

Latest Progress Report from American Samoa

Mike Reynolds, U.S. Park Services (USPS), and Kenneth Tingman, Federal Coordinating Officer for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). USPS and FEMA are among more than a dozen federal organizations who collectively have more than 300 people assisting American Samoa after the tsunami. Photo: FEMA.

Meanwhile in American Samoa last week, FEMA official Kenneth Tingman, when asked by reporters what was being done to rebuild homes said there is a plan but they can’t tell anyone yet.  Sound familiar? Exactly who is running their public communications programme here because they need help.

In short, for all its might and power, the USA government-funded FEMA could only confirm one fact to reporters at a press conference, billed as an update on relief efforts: “…we’re not quite there yet.”

Tingman, however, did tell reporters that there is a plan and that plan will be announced “…when the time comes.”

It is those kinds of official responses that reveal what a PR stunt last week’s press conference with FEMA and American Samoa Governor Togiola Tulafono, who has been off island for the past fortnight, really was.

It seemed less an update, and more an insensitive insider exercise in damage control after the CNN expose which revealed the extent of public funding misuse by the American Samoa Government. It implicated American Samoa Senators and of course, most of all, Governor of Samoa, and members of his Cabinet.  His right hand female spokesperson Evelyn Langford sat alongside Tulafono at the press conference last week.

FEMA officials from Washington told reporters how impressed they were with the federal-territorial partnership. It  is starting to look and sound a little like FEMA from the Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans days. If this is the same FEMA bureaucracy, with no lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina, the tsunami victims of American Samoa are in for a long and frustrating wait.

With that in mind, FEMA and the Governor’s office, with its lack of transparency, are like two peas in a pod.  Clearly changing government administrations, from Bush to Obama, (American Samoa was put on the high risk list for federal funds under the Bush Administration), has had little impact on making either organisation more accountable to the people.

So if there is any scorecard that counts,  it is not their  self-assessed ones. By and large, the citizens of American Samoa, judging by the messageboards and comments posted to their local newspaper, is deeply critical so far. And despite last week’s so-called update, Government and FEMA could give no new information on when the government’s rebuilding of homes will begin. Unless the Governor’s office can improve their public communications, and be honest and upfront with its citizens, there is little hope of an “impressive” score card from the people.

Meanwhile, tsunami survivors in American Samoa wait and wait for their homes to be rebuilt. And even to this day, the Government has yet to release an official casualty list.

We checked out the experiences of  NGOs on the ground in American Samoa. From what we have been able to find out, the verdict is the same:  the disaster emergency relief stage is far from over in American Samoa. It is not even at the rebuilding stage.

So why are FEMA and the American Samoan Government impressed about their partnership? You tell us. Not-for-profits NGOs and volunteers have outpaced their response and aid. That much is clear.

FEMA and the American Samoa Government have yet to finalise any idea of how, who,  what, and when rebuilding of people’s homes and livelihoods will begin.

Maybe FEMA and the American Samoa Government should finally acknowledge that they have no plan, never had a plan on how to respond in an emergency disaster like this. Bureaucratic red tape, with its myriad of federal processes, is not a plan.

Despite American Samoa being given millions in disaster preparedness funding since 2003, the island nation is no better for it because  those funds were not spent on what it was intended for.  Yet not one American Samoa official,  from the Governor down, has been asked to resign over its corrupt practices. It appears to be business as usual to those looking in.

But that is  a whole another sad story laced with  greed, corruption, and blatant lies (strong but accurate description) from the Governor’s Administration to pacificEyeWitness.org

Seven Weeks Later Disaster Relief Far From Over In American Samoa

As the CNN investigation revealed, very few villagers saw government officials or agencies come to help in the first two weeks.

Tomorrow, we’ll bring you the latest on the issues related to CNN investigation that found American Samoa Government lacking when it came to helping its own people.

More on that tomorrow.