Monday, July 19, 2010


In a word, my trip to Samoa was “wonderful.” I’m so very lucky that I was placed with my particular Samoan family when I was in Peace Corps. I had sent an email with my itinerary and had a couple of brief phone conversations with my Samoan family before I left Hawaii ($45 for two phone calls of about ten minutes each). But other than the fact that I knew that they knew that I was coming for a visit, I had made no other plans. I took a taxi from the airport directly to the bakery/restaurant/store which my family owns. I was welcomed with hugs and kisses, was given a sandwich and cool drink, and then took a taxi to grandmother’s house in Apia. From that time on, I was in the bosom of the family and wanted for nothing the entire time that I was there.

That evening we went to Poutasi. It was difficult to see the village so changed. Our family house was very badly damaged, but part of the rear portion remains, with intact plumbing in the bathroom. So the family has been living in that part of the house. All the windows and some of the walls were blown out in the tsunami, so it’s open on three sides, although they have put up boards to provide some shelter. They are building a new house in the village, on higher ground. It is nearly complete, but still didn’t have plumbing during my visit, so they weren’t living there yet. Saina (the mom in my host family) will have an indoor kitchen sink and a four burner stovetop for the first time ever. But they also plan to rebuild the old house as a place to come by the sea, and for guests and family. There are numerous new houses in the village, mostly on the mountain instead of by the sea where they used to be, and lots of open space where houses once stood.

My visit brought closure for me in more ways than I expected. It helped to be able to see the village, changed as it is, and accept it as it now stands, and to mourn the loss of my friends. But unexpectedly I found some closure to my Peace Corps experience. When I first got to Samoa in 2007, I wrote in my journal that “. . . my only real concern is whether I will be able to accomplish a worthwhile project in my village when I get there.” So to return and sense some measure of accomplishment, and know that I made a small difference, is a good feeling.

When I returned to Poutasi, I learned that the Homework Center continued successfully after I left. On weekends it was a busy place where the children continued to come and do homework and spend time on the computers. Some of the village teachers staffed it. It’s hard for Samoan kids to do homework at home – there are always chores that they are asked to do, little brothers and sisters to baby-sit, etc. At the homework center they could come and work together in a place set aside for that purpose. And the little kids could come too and color, do puzzles, etc., like they did while I was there.

And here’s one of the coolest things. In the new church hall, under construction, there is planned a new homework center. It will be bigger and better and air conditioned. They will continue to welcome kids from Poutasi and the neighboring village to come and do homework and use the computers for free (with charges only for printing and copying). I can hardly express how delighted I am that this little project is continuing.

So I was really excited to give the money that I took with me from your generous gifts ($500 US), to the Poutasi Homework Center. One of the Peace Corps office staff also raised $1,300 US that she wants to be used for the kids in Poutasi. I introduced her to Saina, and the day after I left they met to begin planning a fun day for the kids in September where they will have crafts, games, prizes, food, music, and dancing, I wish that I could be there! A portion of that money will also go to the Poutasi Homework Center. Later, when the construction on the church hall is complete, and the homework center is ready to re-open, I’ll send some books, puzzles, etc. to replace some of what was lost in the tsunami. (A couple of you have said that you would still like to contribute – you could help me buy stuff for a box to send later.)

I am absolutely delighted with how this has turned out! There will be a new community internet center in the village, but the kids can still have the opportunity they had before. They can still have free computer time; they can come to do homework together; they will have a learning space. The Poutasi Homework Center will continue.