Storm relief supplies for independent Samoa being gathered in Hawai'i

Photo Credit: 
Faletuiga/Tina Mata'afa-Tufele
Leader of the Lighthouse Outreach Center, Pastor Joe Hunkin (far right) supervises as volunteers from Lighthouse transfer non-perishable food items for Samoa, from buses used for storage into a delivery vehicle Tuesday this week in Waipahu.

Add Hawai’i to the list of international donors that have stepped forward to assist Samoa with storm relief as the sovereign nation continues to rebuild after Cyclone Evan ripped through the islands Dec. 13, 2012.

Called Help Save Samoa, the Hawai’i relief drive is led by the American Samoa Government Office in Hawaii and Lighthouse Outreach Center led by Pastor Joe Hunkin, in Waipahu. Hundreds of boxes of non-perishable food items, clothing, towels, sheets and other goods have filled three 40-foot containers. The official Help Save Samoa launch was held Tuesday this week during a press conference at Lighthouse.

“I’m doing this at the behest of American Samoa’s new Governor Lolo M. Moliga,” Afimutasi Gus Hannemann, new director for the ASG Office-Hawai’i told reporters. “Although our governments are defined by different political ideologies, Samoa and American Samoa are bound together by blood and kinship which transcends any political barriers. Luckily for our families in American Samoa, Cyclone Evan did not cause any sizable damage but our sister Samoa was hit hard to the point where precious lives were lost.”

According to the Samoa government’s latest Cyclone Evan Relief Report issued Jan. 17, four were killed in the storm and 10 are still missing. Evan also ravaged plantations, destroyed more than 500 homes and left close to 4,000 homeless.

As far as plantations and food supply, Samoa’s Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries reported the worst hit areas as Lefaga, Salamumu, Safata, Siumu, and Falealili Districts, including Aleisa. In these areas, the government recorded 100 percent loss of banana trees, 50 percent loss of breadfruit and 80 percent loss of other economically important crops (such as cocoa, citrus, and coffee).

Hannemann says “there are very few Samoans who can say they come from only one Samoa.”

The Samoan islands were divided into two parts during the Tripartite Convention (involving the U.S. Germany and Britain) of 1899 with the United States taking the eastern group and Germany taking the western group. Tutuila was annexed to the U.S. in 1900. The Manu’a islands were officially annexed in 1904. Together Tutuila and Manu’a are American Samoa.

In 1914, New Zealand took control of Samoa. In 1962, Samoa gained its independence from New Zealand. Samoa is the first small-island country in the Pacific to become independent. Last year marked a golden 50 years since Samoa became a sovereign state and 112 years since American Samoa became a territory of the U.S.

“Samoa is one people,” said Hannemann. “Politically divided, but we are one.”

He says that American Samoa is fortunate to have the aid of the U.S. federal government when disaster strikes but that Samoa has no support like the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA).

Hannemann says an immediate need in Samoa is corrugated tin roofing for rebuilding homes and adds that monetary donations will go toward purchasing this building supply in American Samoa. Corrugated tin roofing is used widely in Samoa and American Samoa. He says his office is working with Ace American Industries in American Samoa to purchase the roofing material at a low cost.

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