Delivering aid to Samoa's survivors

October 11, 2009

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Greg Casagrande  </span>
    The village of Lalomanu, Samoa is gone — where 21 clients of SPBD lived before the tsunami destroyed their homes and businesses. Photo: Greg Casagrande
  <span class="field-credit">
    courtesy of Greg Casagrande  </span>
    Greg Casagrande of SPBD (right) talks with Aso (middle), who lost three children to the tsunami. Photo: courtesy of Greg Casagrande

It has been an unforgettable week. As a starter, let me share this photo of the formally picturesque village of Lalomanu where South Pacific Business Development (SPBD) once had 21 thriving micro-entrepreneurs. After the tsunami, Lalomanu is gone.

On Friday, we delivered aid packages to 102 stricken women in 15 different villages — including Lalomanu — across the southeast coast of Upolu in Samoa. They were all extremely delighted when we showed up at their various places of encampment.

We delivered these supplies to each lady:

  • A 20-pound sack of rice
  • 24 cans of fish
  • A large bushknife
  • A bucket in which they can store water for washing, cooking and bathing
  • A wash basin
  • Plates, cups and spoons
  • 24 liters of water
  • A box of mosquito coils
  • Ten boxes of matches
  • Four toothbrushes, three tubes of toothpaste and soap
  • A grant for ST $150 (about US $60)

In total, this aid package was worth ST $400 per person (about US $160). That is more than the average monthly income for an underprivileged family in Samoa — and so these women were quite pleased when we arrived.

The village of Saleapaga, where SBPD worked with 14 successful micro-entrepreneurs, appears to be relocating and the government of Samoa appears to be supportive. While many of our ladies are living in quickly-assembled homes of loose pieces of timber, tarps and mats, the government is at work trying to extend power lines to the area. Hopefully — eventually — water and sanitation will also be brought to this area. For now, these families are very much out in the wilderness and so we are pleased to be able to lend a hand.

Earlier this week, there was another massive earthquake in the region — a 7.9-magnitude quake in Vanuatu. This led to a tsunami warning, which required the entire nation of Samoa to evacuate to higher ground. It was a fairly extraordinary experience watching (and participating in) the evacuation of the city of Apia. Fortunately, another tsunami did not show up but it did provide an opportunity to ensure that the tsunami alert system and the responses are appropriate.

On the unfortunate side, a few brave souls decided that this warning was the last straw and that they, too, have now decided to permanently move uphill into the bush.

On Saturday, SPBD carried out another large scale aid distribution. We visted another 13 villages that were severely impacted. Next week, we plan to start working with some of the more eager women to see if they are ready to start re-launching their micro businesses or re-building their homes. We are putting in place emergency financing packages for each of our ladies to help them do this.

Thank you to those have already donated so generously to support our efforts. That’s it for now. Tofa soifua.