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Tavita Tusitala

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New Yorkers help family in Samoa after loss
« on: October 20, 2009, 08:16:21 AM »
New Yorkers help family in Samoa after loss
NY -- When an earthquake-caused tsunami slammed into the island of American Samoa about two weeks ago, two brothers from Horseheads lost their grandmother in the giant waves that consumed a senior center in the capital city of Pago Pago.

Although Emmanuel and Shammah Leasiolagi have never been to Samoa, they're trying to help their extended family and other island inhabitants recover by raising money for building supplies, tools, medical supplies and canned goods necessary to rebuild the battered island.

Emmanuel, 20, and Shammah, 19, were born in Elmira to the Rev. John and Litia Leasiolagi, who were residents here during the late 1980s through the 1990s. John Leasiolagi was once employed by Kennedy Valve.

The family has since relocated to Tacoma, Wash., where John Leasiolagi established The Love Church of Puyallup.

Emmanuel and Shammah returned to Horseheads in mid-September to serve an internship at Love Aflame! Worldwide, an international ministry headquartered at The Love Church on Upper Lake Road.

They were devastated when they received word of their grandmother's fate.

"Our grandmother prepared and served meals at the senior center," Shammah said. "She had gone to the center early in the morning to begin meal preparations when the waves hit."

"Some of the stronger workers were able to climb to the roof. When the water began to take our grandmother, the others tried to pull her up, but the water was too strong. She was swept out to sea," Emmanuel said. "Her body was recovered days later."

"We felt so helpless," Emmanuel said. "We are way over here near the East Coast and our family is all the way over on the West Coast in the South Pacific."

"We felt like our hands were tied to be able to contribute to the cause in a meaningful way," Emmanuel said. "Then, we realized we can actually help in the relief efforts from here."

Emmanuel and Shammah are volunteering their time to help man a nationwide, toll-free donation hotline, planning fundraisers here in the Southern Tier for the relief cause, and preparing to ship at least three containers of supplies from Tacoma during the next several weeks.

Local residents can help the brothers by calling the national hotline at (877) 539-1564.

New Yorkers help family in Samoa after loss


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