Western Samoans thankful for gift
In his Samoan tongue, the expression conveys a thank you drawn from the bottom of one's heart.
For Fredericton firefighter Pamelika Fiaui, being able to return to his tsunami-ravaged Western Samoan home armed with a $2,000 donation from his new home brought a warm response from his countrymen and women.
When Fiaui, who's married to New Brunswicker Chandra Clowater, heard of the Sept. 29 8.3-magnitude earthquake that triggered the tsunami that washed out the southeast coast of Western Samoa and caused damage to Tonga and American Samoa, he wanted to go home to help.
Fiaui took two weeks in October to visit his family and friends in Apia, Samoa, and to sign up with the Samoa Red Cross Society to provide a helping hand.
When word of his trip spread through his fire-fighting fraternity, hands dipped into pockets. Firefighters, the firefighters' union, city hall management and employees, friends and relatives of his wife's family and her provincial government workplace and Fiaui's teammates at the Fredericton Loyalist Rugby Club found ways to scrape together $2,000.
Fiaui handed that money over to the Samoa Red Cross Society, which added it to the nearly $1 million raised internationally to help restore clean water, food and provide temporary shelter.
Back in Fredericton after his two-week visit, Fiaui said he was surprised by how much had been accomplished in the South Pacific island in such a short time.
"The cleaning went really well. There was hardly any big debris and the rocks on the road were cleared. People were cleaning and they did really well. The Red Cross was right there a few hours after they got hit," Fiaui said.
"Almost everyone lives around the coast, but they're moving inland now. So we were cutting trees down where their houses will be built and we built temporary shelters - tents - for them," Fiaui said.
Foundations were built for large water storage tanks that will become a central point for obtaining drinking water.
"There's no (water) pipeline that goes where they are moving now, so they'll have to adjust their lifestyle a bit to move inland," he said.
While Fiaui found his parents, eight siblings and extended family well, a boyhood friend suffered a tragedy.
"One of my best friends, he lost his three kids ... That was really bad. I've got kids too and it's hard to imagine his kids are gone and I still have mine. It's hard," Fiaui said.
Fiaui said he finds it hard to articulate how much he values the generosity of his New Brunswick friends.
"The help of the people here and the donations and me being there and volunteering some time with them, it was really good and I feel better," Fiaui said.
"It was amazing. I don't know how to put it into words."
To see images of Fiaui's trip, visit samoatocanada.blogspot.com/2009/11/thank-you-samoa-tsunami-relief.html. To learn more about the relief effort, visit www.redcross.org.ws