Samoa Tsunami Disaster Relief
The team led by Taimalie Kiwi and Tafaoimalo Loudeen have carried out some amazing work in Samoa as over 16 months have passed since the tragic event of the tsunami. The project ran at full steam through Christmas and New Year 2009/10, but has now wound down and Taimalie Kiwi and Tafaoimalo Loudeen returned to New Zealand in March 2010.
The team worked in the southern villages affected by the tsunami. They have led much of the localised psycho-social work as children, young people, parents and grandparents have responded to the unexpected event that destroyed so many of their homes and villages, and took the lives of their loved ones. They have sat with extraordinary pain, been inspired by amazing acts of bravery and been awed by the extent of loss and restoration required. The workers have been careful to empathise with people’s sadness and encourage their resilience in the ongoing process of adaptation after the losses. It has been relentless work carried out in the spirit of alofa for Samoa and the victim/survivors of the tsunami.
The first phase included visits to 380 families detrimentally affected by the tsunami in each of the villages. The second phase involved follow up and more intensive work with families who were still struggling in the post-tsunami environment. These follow up visits also revealed new people who may have been in hospital during the first visit or out of the village for some other reason. In the second phase 120 families were visited. The prime focus was on the psycho-social work, but it also inevitably involved help with physical requirements like water and sanitation.
The work of building capacity among younger people in Samoa who could offer psycho-social leadership if a similar crisis occurred again in Samoa has developed. We think we have secured funding to begin a dedicated second phase course for these workers. Their contribution has been considerable and we are very proud of their achievements.
Alongside the village work, in the last months there has been a specialised focus on the children and young people affected by the tsunami helping them engage with their peers, share stories, play games and ground themselves in the narratives and rituals at the heart of the fa’a Samoa. This has required an extraordinary amount of organisation and programme focus. Over 1,250 children have been participants in these Children’s Camps. These culminated in a Christmas Party hosted by their Highnesses Afioga Tui Atua Tupua and Filifilia Tamasese (Tupua is Head of Sate in Samoa and a member of our Trust Board at the Family Centre). Our team worked very hard for this event and their Highnesses contributed 900 presents so every child and young person received something.
As it was considered unsafe for the 5 and 6 year olds to be bussed into Apia without their parents for the big party, our team ran 12 separate parties for these young ones in their villages and provided 250 wrapped presents for those children. Setting up these parties was a key strategy to help the young ones, who had or were addressing many of their problems as a result of the tsunami, move from victim/survivor status to regular young person status having a fun time and being treated specially at Christmas. Organising involved 4 visits to each of 12 schools (48 visits in all). It was a mammoth task that brought joy to many children.
We have been very ably supported by friends of the Family Centre. People have been extraordinarily generous. Donations specifically for this project have just passed the $88,000 (NZ) mark. (For our friends overseas, that is around $62,500 (US). After some fine advocacy work from the leadership in our Diocese, the Anglican Board of Missions and Christian World Service unexpectedly added substantially to the individual donations of many of you for which we have been very grateful.
Close professional friends and colleagues who have been helping us directly in Samoa include Richard Sawrey, an ex-staff member and clinical psychologist and Allister Bush, another colleague and psychiatrist in charge of Pacific Child and Adolescent Mental Health in our region. Both of them have returned for a second stint. Kiwi’s cousin Meoli Keil was in Samoa when the tsunami struck and stayed on and helped. Fiona Vickers, a New Zealand paramedic, was one of the earliest to join the team. Debbie Eklund, a public health specialist from the UK spent many weeks with the team and brought with her Dr Chris Jagger and her cousin Anna and her daughter Emma. Jenny Freeman, Susan Shaw and Jossy Jenessa from Northern California joined the team more recently as has Loudeen’s niece Leitu Parsons. We are extraordinarily grateful to these people who came and worked at their own expense apart from paying for accommodation and food. They all made a special contribution.
Thank you, particularly from Taimalie Kiwi and Tafaoimalo Loudeen to all of you who have contributed financially or just encouraged us or prayed or helped in some other way. Those gifts are gathered with our gifts for this season of giving and link us at this time to Samoa. The people of Samoa have shown such courage and resilience. We are proud with you to be associated with them. Alofa atu.