By Rob Cooper, Water Engineer, Independent Water Schemes Association
After Cyclone Evan, thousands were left homeless but our house survived. As a volunteer in Samoa I immediately thought: how can I help? I went to the Red Cross office close by with a bunch of Australian volunteers to see what we could do.
We attended a Red Cross coordination meeting where we were asked what our skills were. When I mentioned I was a water engineer, I was promptly whisked out of the office and into a 4WD, with the driver told to “Drop him off with Watson.” I thought Watson was another volunteer, but was informed that ‘Watsan’ was the Red Cross WATer and SANitation team.
By Donna Lene, Chairperson of Special Olympics Samoa
I’ll be honest: it was really hard for me when I first started working in the disability sector in Samoa. Arriving as an Australian Volunteer to work at Samoa’s only school for the deaf more than 23 years ago, I quickly became aware the potential of so many people with disabilities was going unnoticed.
It broke my heart.
In the first six months of my stay there was more than one time I wanted to return to my safe, comfortable life in Mackay, Queensland. It was only after I met my future husband—my soul mate—that I found the strength to continue. I rediscovered my passion for my work, my desire to help make a difference in the lives of others.
Today, I am a completely different person—a better person—and I am proud to say that Samoa is a completely different place—a better place—for people with disabilities.
By Rob Tranter, First Assistant Director General, Pacific Division, AusAID
Two and a half years ago in September 2009, the Tavana family from Saleaumua village in Samoa saw their entire life swept away by one of the worst natural disasters to ever hit the small Pacific nation.
With the Tavana family out the front of the Caritas-built house. Photo: AusAID
I remember being at the Crisis Centre in Canberra as news of an earthquake that had just struck off the coast of Samoa came flooding in. The 8.3 magnitude quake triggered a huge tsunami that ripped through the southern Samoan island of Upolu.
Saleaumua, on the south coast of Upolu, was one of the worst hit villages. It was completely flattened by the disaster. And while the Tavanas saved all members of their family, they lost their home and all of their possessions while fleeing from the advancing waves.