HFH New Zealand To Mark 7 Months Of Reconstruction In Tsunami-Hit Samoa

Samoa Prime Minister, Corporate Sponsors And Volunteers Among Guests To Attend Celebration In Samoa

AUCKLAND, 4th May 2010: Habitat for Humanity New Zealand and its supporters will celebrate seven months of rebuilding in Samoa which was ravaged by a tsunami in October 2009.

To date, HFH New Zealand has built more than 55 fales or traditional houses such as the one above.

Habitat volunteers returned home, feeling blessed by their experiences in Samoa.

Guests who are expected to attend the celebrations on 7th May include Samoan Prime Minister, Tuila’epa Sailele Malielegaoi, officials from New Zealand and Samoa, corporate sponsors, volunteers and Habitat representatives.

“The generosity of a number of New Zealand and Samoan corporate and not-for-profit partners was vital to the project’s ongoing success,” said Habitat for Humanity New Zealand’s CEO Pete North. “It is a privilege to be able to show well-known organizations such as Air New Zealand, Caritas and World Vision New Zealand how their support has made a huge difference.”

The celebrations will include a tour of the Habitat Resource Center in Lepa where raw materials are turned into building products such as pre-cut trusses, walls and rebars cut to the appropriate length. The precut components are then transported to the build site where teams comprising both Habitat and local volunteers erect the fale.

Guests will also attend the dedication of a fale on the southeastern coast and the unveiling of a small plaque in Saleapaga in memory of Rebecca and Petria Martin. The sisters were two of four New Zealanders killed when the tsunami hit the Tafuafua Fale Beach Resort. Their family made a generous donation toward Habitat in the construction of two fales. Celebrations will conclude with a special evening event hosted by the New Zealand High Commission in conjunction with Air New Zealand and Digicel.

To date, 55 fales have been built and progress is expected to speed up. HFH New Zealand is working in partnership with the Samoan government to supervise construction of more than 200 fales on selected sites on the tsunami-ravaged southeastern coast of Upolu in the villages of Salea’aumua, Saleapaga and Satitoa.

Lua Maea, a New Zealander of Samoan origin, who manages Project Samoa Hope, said: “You can never underestimate the resilience of the people. The tsunami took so much away from them, including loved ones who can never be replaced. For many, everything they owned ended up being claimed by the sea yet they still want to give something back to volunteers, even though they have very little left themselves.”

More than 300 volunteers have contributed their time and labor since the start of this year. Volunteers have come from Australia as well as New Zealand. U.S. naval personnel have also lent a hand.

Maea added: “The overwhelming feedback from volunteers is that it has been such an honor to be a part of the rebuilding effort. We went to Samoa with the intention of blessing the Samoan people but so many volunteers returned home feeling so blessed themselves.”

HFH New Zealand is currently assessing how it can best assist HFH Fiji’s in the latter’s response to rebuilding after Cyclone Tomas which hit the Pacific Island nation in March.