HFH New Zealand Ramps Up Rebuilding In Tsunami-Hit Samoa

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Fresh Funding Helps Boost Reconstruction Of Traditional Houses But More New Zealand Volunteers And Donations Are Needed

AUCKLAND, 23rd December 2009: In the past two weeks, Habitat for Humanity New Zealand has received a spate of funding commitments totaling some NZ$366,000 (about US$258,000). The money will go a long way to support Habitat's program to assist families affected by the tsunami that hit the Pacific island nation of Samoa in September.

Funding has come from the Anglican Mission Board (NZ$30,000), ACC (Australia Christian Churches) World Relief representing more 1,100 Assembly of God churches in Australia (NZ$126,000), World Vision NZ (NZ$150,000), ASB Community Trust (NZ$50,000) and North Shore City Council (NZ$10,000). These responses to the needs in Samoa were prompted by the support of print and broadcast media which have reported extensively about the rebuilding project.

HFH New Zealand is working in partnership with the Samoan government to supervise construction of some 250 fales, or traditional houses, on selected sites on the tsunami-ravaged southeastern coast of Upolu in the villages of Salea'aumua, Saleapaga and Satitoa. Rebuilding work is already underway in Salea'aumua, and will extend to the other villages early in 2010.

Recently, the first two fales were dedicated. The dedication ceremony was attended by Samoan Prime Minister Tuila'epa Sailele Malielegaoi and New Zealand High commissioner Caroline Bilkey, among other guests. To date, 10 fales have been completed by New Zealand volunteers while another 20 are under construction. Volunteers are building the fales in teams of 25 each week and slots for volunteer teams are almost fully booked through early April 2010. Working under Samoan supervisors, all volunteers are learning to build "the Samoan way". The project team in Samoa is planning for a time when seven fales can be delivered a week, starting mid January 2010.

"We will need increased numbers of skilled volunteers, including electricians, plumbers, as well as builders, in the new year, as our activities intensify. This need is expected to remain high through most of 2010 and to be particularly pressing during May and June," said Pete North, chief executive officer of HFH New Zealand.

Four Samoan staff members are part of the project's management team. This is part of a plan to empower and transfer skills to the Samoan community through skilled volunteers, thereby helping the families and communities to take the lead in rebuilding their homes and communities. North remarked: "This is now a truly Samoan work supported by New Zealand."

On 29th September, an earthquake of 8.3-magnitude triggered deadly tsunami waves that bashed into Samoa, American Samoa and Tonga. The tsunami killed around 200 people on the three islands. Some 20 villages were destroyed in Samoa, leaving 3,500 people homeless.