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Samoa Update December 2010

Well, I am two thirds of the way through the fact-finding mission to Samoa. As you know, they had a devastating tsunami in 2009 following an 8.2 magnitude undersea earthquake not far away. Most of the structures along the southeast coast were wiped out and many people lost their lives—and you don’t find anyone on the island who didn’t have a family member affected.

saleapaga village structure foundations

The village system here is very strong and ties to the village where you grew up define your allegiances. The villages themselves own their land, from the sea to the top of the mountains. And since the population is small here, only 180,000 in the whole country, everybody was, and is, in shock. The government response was relatively quick and coordinated and could be used as an example for orderly disaster response-relief-recovery. Within months, new roads were built into the hills accessing the villagers’ property there—that’s were they do their farming anyway—with electricity and water following, mapping out new neighborhoods, and building materiel assured people that they would eventually have a permanent roof over there heads. Most people who were doing something besides subsistence farming, might need some help though. The government made no real provisions for tools of livelihood, but during my meeting with the First Secretary for Development for NZAID, he said something interesting: that some people think that the government should act like insurance company and replace everything someone loses in a disaster like this, but that is not possible. But that’s where MicroAid comes in. There are a few instances where we can help a village replace their fishing boats, or provide basic tools to get their beach-fale (huts) business up and running. And in my meeting with Samoa Red Cross, there seem to be many watertanks that were delivered, but not connected to roof-top collection systems.

rebuilt fales on the south side of upolu

A sad tale:

On the morning of the tsunami, Ian was preparing breakfast for his parents, when he felt the awesome shock. Being right on the edge of the ocean and seeing that the water was draining out in an ominous way, he gathered his mom, his pregnant wife (who couldn’t swim,) his one-year-old daughter and started to run. Unfortunately, the wave caught up with them and swept them all out to sea. But owing to divine intervention, a huge piece of wood floated out of nowhere to give them some respite, since they were now far from shore. As Ian struggled to support his wife, their unborn daughter, daughter, and mother, they made their way toward the beach. Now the tough part, and Ian tells it with tears welling in his eyes and needs a breather: “As we got to the beach, another wave washed my mother away, and we never saw her again.”

jon and ian & daughter

This is the nature of disasters—horror, that unless you live through it, is unfathomable. Thank goodness for a very strong community, a faith in God, and all that implies, Ian has managed to at least move on a little.

I’m glad, with your help, though MIcroAid, we can make some people’ lives a little easier.

More from Samoa later.

Have a wonderful holiday season,



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