Samoa Tsunami Disaster Appeal.
Talofa Lava, dear friends and colleagues,
On Tuesday, September 29th an 8.3 earthquake occurred offshore between American Samoa and the large island of Upolu in the independent nation of Samoa, causing a devastating tsunami, a series of massive surges.
On the South coast of Upolu, as children were setting off to school, the tsunami swept in, giving people little warning to race for their lives. Many were lost, especially children and elders. My friends in Apia, the capital across the island, said the earthquake rocked them for three minutes. Samoa has buried her dead, but is reeling with the losses. I have heard that over a thousand people are displaced. Naturally, the small nation is hard pressed. Although relief organizations arrived with food, clothing, and medical help, there is an acute need for trauma response, among other primary needs.
You may know the social justice and social policy work of the Family Center of New Zealand. If so, it is likely that you have been touched by the work of the Pacific section head, Taimalieutu Kiwi Tamasese and her collaborator, Tafaoimalo Loudeen Parsons. Their contributions include social policy, therapy, community services, and activism in New Zealand and Samoa (including global warming planning for the Pacific) as well as international teaching. Their positions back home in Samoa mean that they have direct responsibility for a great number of people in their districts.
I am writing also on a very personal note. My family has a multi-generational history with Samoa, and I spent formative years there with extended adoptive family and loved ones on Upolu. I was lucky to experience earlier this year a wonderful homecoming and reunion. I too am breathing into the ephemeral nature of things. All my loved-ones survived, but the village on the lagoon as well as an eco-resort that employed friends-- breadwinners for large families-- was wiped out, as were many other villages.
May I ask for your financial generosity to Samoa, as well as for your prayers or meditations? I know that mail comes every day, asking for help of various kinds, and we all give a lot. This is an opportunity to contribute personally, meaningfully and directly, through a completely trustworthy solid network.
Taimalie Kiwi and Tafaoimalo Loudeen are officially working under the direction of the Samoan Ministry of Health Disaster Relief Co-coordinator to provide primary trauma response and other direct needs-assessment and response This includes meeting with chiefs from the affected areas, assessing needs, and going in with response teams of volunteer catechists from the Catholic Church. Donations from our communities have been hiring vehicles needed to transport teams and supplies into the hills, purchasing supplies and fuel and providing vital logistical support and help to families. Most recently teams have been leading groups for youth and children displaced from homes and schools. Please see below for a summary of some of the work done in the first month.
My family is giving separately to the area where I hold title, but your contribution will go to serve the hardest hit areas. Any contribution that feels right to you will be welcomed and greatly appreciated over there.
Funds are being collected through the Family Center in New Zealand, a non-profit. Our friends Taimalieutu Kiwi Tamasese, and Tafaoimalo Loudeen Parsons in their positions of high chief will be able to allocate, as needed, every cent of those funds to help families and lands recover. The head of state, His Highness Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Ta'isi Efi who is Taimalie's uncle, and a visionary, compassionate leader, is also directly involved.
Due to the fees involved in wiring funds to Samoa or NZ , we have worked out that the best option, if you are in the United States, is to send personal checks to me for deposit in an accountthen wire lump sums to the nonprofit Family Center, Anglican Social Services of New Zealand, who will give it directly over to our contacts in Samoa. Please make clear your physical address. I will keep an account of names, addresses and amounts so that the non-profit can send you a letter of receipt. This will represent a considerable savings so that all the money will go to those that need it.
Please make checks payable to Jenny Freeman.
709 Balra Drive
El Cerrito, CA 94530
If you are elsewhere in the world, please go directly to the website of the Family Centre in New Zealand http://www.familycentre.org.nz/ There are people in your country who can collect donations - to save the continuous payment of international bank charges. Email Lynn Barlow firstname.lastname@example.org for details if you need them.
The beauty of this chance to give is that it goes directly through women chiefs to serve families on the hardest hit areas of Upolu. I think it will affect generations that the right care is being received now.
Fa'afetai tele lava,
Afega I Tino Oti
Report from the Family Center about activities in Samoa.
The teams led by Taimalie Kiwi and Tafaoimalo Loudeen are doing some amazing work as Samoa has now lived more than a month since the tragic tsunami rushed over its southern villages. On most days they enter new villages, meet with the Pulenu’u (village Mayor), enter into formal rituals of welcome and are then directed to the families or groups in need of their help. People share their stories, which are sometimes full of grief because they lost someone, sometimes full of relief because they got away and sometimes complicated due to the anguish of it all.
They are helping people recognize all they did to preserve life and acknowledge their own resilience and fortitude, all the time being careful not to re-traumatize them. They have been working closely with volunteer catechists from the Catholic Church. They have had very little sleep, but are now well through the initial phase of burials and ‘White Sunday” (the special day for children in Samoa which just happened to fall soon after the tragedy), both of which have their healing and reassuring rituals. White Sunday was a very sad day in Samoa this year and everyone was dreading it. Despite this, among all the sadness and tragedy, humor still plays its part, even in the telling of awful stories, to help keep them going. Over the last couple of weeks teams have been leading small groups for over 750 children and youth who have experienced the loss of village and school.
Quite a number of the medics have now returned to their home countries. Our colleague Richard Sawrey, an ex-staff member and clinical psychologist, Allister Bush, another colleague and psychiatrist in charge of Pacific Child and Adolescent Mental Health in our region, and Debbie Eklund, a public health specialist from the UK, and William Speir from the USA have returned after having worked with the teams. Jenny Freeman, a psychotherapist and activist from Australia and California is joining the work in Samoa next week.