​In September of 2009, a tsunami slammed into the south coast of the main island of the independent country of Samoa. Many people lost their lives and many others had all their possessions swept away. 

According to the United Nations, at least 150 people were killed and hundreds went missing in Samoa, American Samoa, and Tonga islands. The highest death toll was on Upolu island in Samoa (formerly Western Samoa). On the south and west coasts, the wave caused extensive property damage and displaced thousands of families.

MicroAid Builds Canoes for the Village of Matafa’a — 2012

In Matafa’a, one of the most remote villages in Samoa, all their canoes were destroyed or washed away by the tidal wave. For Matafa’a this was particularly devastating because they rely solely on canoes to get across the bay to connect with the rest of the island—it’s the way the kids get to school, the adults to the shop and to the bus stop to get to jobs in the capital of Apia.

A crowded "school bus" after most of village's canoes were destroyed 

MicroAid worked with the local craftsmen to build 16 canoes so that every family in the village would have one.  Additionally, because we were making so many canoes in so short a time, the older men were able to teach the next generation the skills necessary to carve a canoe.  And since the project was completed, other villages have hired the men to make canoes for them—an unexpected benefit of the project.

Here’s the basic process of building one canoe.  

(We did 16)

Find a suitably big tree in the jungle and cut it down.

Do the basic shaping and carving in the jungle.

Shape the hull. 

Dig out the interior, and then drag the canoe out of the jungle. 

Begin the finishing work. 

This image shows Matai, the older generation, teaching a member of the new generation of canoe makers. 

Finally, connect outriggers. 

A finished work of art. 

And paint. 

The launching ceremony. 

Matafa'a's completed MicroAid fleet. 

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MicroAid replaces Fishing Kits in the Village of Salea’a’umua — 2012

When we think of fishing we usually imagine someone casting a line into the water and reeling in their catch.  In Samoa, fishing means swimming under the surface at night and using a spear (in other parts of the world called a “Hawaiian Sling”) to snag your prey, and/or stringing a net across part of the lagoon.

Here, a “fishing kit” is comprised of a mask, snorkel, fins, an underwater light, a spear, 180 meters of fishing net, and a cooler.

The 2009 tsunami washed away the people’s possessions, including their fishing kits—and most have not been replaced.  Now, if a villager wants dinner, they probably have to buy a fish at the market.  And since the villagers don’t really have any cash of their own, they usually end up borrowing money to pay for things—which starts a vicious cycle.

Things in Samoa are very expensive—about two-and-a-half times what they cost in the U.S.—so the likelihood that anyone could put together their own kit is remote.

To help people return to self-sufficiency, MicroAid has donated five fishing kits to the village of Salea’a’umua on the southeast coast of Upolu—the hardest hit area of the 2009 tsunami.

The women’s committee of the village will be in charge of loaning out the kits on a nightly basis, maintaining them, and monitoring their use.  Villagers can even sell extra fish if they catch enough.

This MicroAid project helps people reclaim their independence.

MicroAid receiving a lavalava from villagers

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