Thursday, January 28, 2010

A New Computer Center For Poutasi

Aloha! After a vagabond year I’m back in Hawaii. It was wonderful to spend a lot of time with family on the mainland. With one son in Atlanta, one in Colorado, and the other in San Diego, I literally went from coast to coast, thoroughly enjoying my time with each of them and their families. I was also able to spend a lot of precious time with my mother in Colorado.

After the tsunami in Samoa I mentioned that I would like to organize an effort to help my village of Poutasi, especially the kids in the village. One of my major projects in the village was the homework/computer center. We turned a storeroom in the rear of the church hall into a small computer center (see photos on the right side of this blog). We had three donated used computers, and one laptop. We got a grant from the New Zealand High Commission of approximately $2,000US, which we used to purchase a printer and pay for some of the renovation cost. The village provided labor and the remainder of the materials.

It was in this small center that I spent two or more afternoons a week and Saturday mornings with the kids teaching them to use the computers, helping them with school work, and providing a learning place for them to hang out. Often there would be 12 or 15 kids waiting for me when I got there. They would double up and sit two in front of each computer. While waiting for their turn, they sat on the floor and colored, did puzzles, read books, or played games. Thanks to generous donations from friends in the States, we were able to provide these educational materials for them.

I taught the kids basic computer skills and installed educational games on the computers. There were mouse practice games, typing games, and math and language games. They loved it and it was such a joy to see them there. Some days I would be tired and think, “I don’t want to go to the computer center this afternoon.” Then I would go and spend two or three hours and be totally energized by being with them.

The church hall was badly damaged in the tsunami. It’s structurally unsound and is being demolished.  However, often there is opportunity in crisis. There is a two-story house that at one time was the headmaster’s house for the school when they sent teachers to Samoa from New Zealand. While I was living in the village, Tuatagaloa Joe and his wife, Tui (Joe is my family’s chief and high chief of the village, and Tui was my dear friend and cousin who was killed in the tsunami), talked to me about using that house to create a “real” computer center. If I had been able to stay longer in Samoa I would have worked toward that goal. I had initial conversations with some folks about it, but that was all that I was able to accomplish while I was there.

Now, after the tsunami, a group of young men from New Zealand have come to the village to help, and they are remodeling and restoring the house for a computer center. There will be a small apartment upstairs so that someone can live above the computer center to provide supervision and security. And it is on the main road so there is a phone line nearby making it possible for them to be on the internet (my little computer center wasn’t on the net).

Tuatagaloa Joe will be sending me some photos and more details on the renovation progress soon. I’ll post that information as soon as I get it.

Many people have told me that they would like to make a donation, so I’m working to raise some funds to help make this new computer center a reality. If you would like to help Poutasi in this way, you can contact me at Fa’afetai tele lava! (Thank you very much!)