Congratulations to volunteers; thanks to donors; Fa'afetai SAMOA!

The Samoa Service Project concluded at the end of January with all volunteers very satisfied that their summer was very well spent.

Tuatagaloa Joe Annandale (back right) with members of the group
We completed the three projects and got through more work than we had imagined.

The church building not only has a new 'priest fort' for the visiting parish priest (complete with bedroom, shower, toilet and basin), but had a brand new coat of paint, some new tiles, a new concrete floor for the sacristy and plenty of other improvements. Jamie Postlewait, working closely with his Samoan counterpart, To'o, along with the team of locals and Anthony Milicich and Nathan Watson, put in some long and arduous hours to break the back of the job. Only some final touches such as connecting the mains and laying the linoleum floor were left for the local men to complete.

Nathaniel, Adrian, John Paul and Fran pose at the playground site
The Playzone playground was successfully installed in the school grounds, under the able leadership of Isaac Fransen. His team of engineers and lawyers firstly had to cut through some heavy duty rock before concreting the pillars in the ground and making sure all was level, with the help of John the local builder. Between Ben Corbett, Adrian D'Souza, Fran Gari, Nathaniel Sue and John Paul Hinojosa, Isaac had an enthusiastic team committed to finishing the job well. Now kids will be coming from all around to use the Poutasi Playground!

Bede, Dylan and Fran with Gori

Bede Mills, foreman of the church project, pushed ahead with his plans and revolutionised the job. The outside of the building was painted in record time and soon the inside was done as well. Assisted by Dylan Cooper, Josh Ioelu, John Gandy, Fr Peter Fitzsimons, Luke Adeney and Eric Suh, he certainly had the numbers and the energy to get it all done. You would never think that a 10m wall of water had been through the church.

We were also very lucky to have a musical get together with Tuatagaloa Joe Annandale, who told us some amazing stories of his life and origins, as well as a moving account of the day of the tsunami in September 2009. Eileen and Claire, the Kiwi ukulele instructors who were volunteering their time to teach a ukulele summer school, were on hand to give us the basics of the ukulele. Luke Adeney, a trained player, entertained us, as well as other musicians such as Josh Ioelu and Tuatagaloa himself.

Thanks to Mike Chun and Play it Strange for the donations of ukuleles to the Ukulele Revolution - from all observations and reports, it was a valuable donation and will continue to be so for the new generation of Samoan musicians.

We have so many people to thank for the awesome experience of spending two and a half weeks in Poutasi. Tuatagaloa Joe Annandale is an amazing host, a generous chief and a wise leader. We are indebted to him for his moral support, his assistance in so many ways and most of all for opening up his home and family to us.

We thank Tuatagaloa's relatives, Pua, Leilua and their sons, for their help and cheerful friendship. We will never forget the spontaneous laughs of Pua and the enthusiastic spirit of the young Leon as he ran out of the house, often without any clothes, yelling threats at us. Thanks as well to Sose Annandale and all the staff at Sinalei Reef Resort and Spa for their support and the use of the resort van for airport trips.

The Catholic parish of Poutasi were our main hosts for the project. We effectively lived side by side with the mothers and families of the parish, who stayed with us, cooked and cleaned and were on hand to provide us with any assistance we needed. Our deep gratitude goes to Konelio and Maria, the catechists, Gori, Julia and all the other ladies who made those exquisite meals, Auseuga, Masella and their family, especially Pauli, Joe, Candy and To'o who provided any tools and materials that were lacking and were a great support in so many ways. We also thank Fr Ponifasio for his guidance earlier in the project and for the new parish priest, Fr Lolesiu, who will be using our new facility - we hope it serves you well.

We also thank the Archbishop of Samoa, Alapati Lui Mataeliga, for his ongoing support of our project.

To our donors in Auckland, without your assistance none of the above would have been possible.

Thanks to Playzone for their generous donation of the playground, pictured below. Paul and Mark Brunton were extremely generous to donate the playground, to construct it in time for shipping, and even made a trip last year to Samoa to speak with Tuatagaloa, map out the site and plan the construction project. Playzone have continued their generous ways, recently committing to donate $200 of every playground sold this month to the Christchurch Earthquake Appeal.

The completed Playzone playground
We also thank John Perrottet of Perrottet Partners for his ongoing sponsorship and consulting for the project, as well as Mr Peter Bendinelli.

We thank other major donors and supporters, including Steeline Industries, David and Nicola Roberts, the David Daily Trust, Francis Pascual, Chris Sit, the Marist Sisters of New Zealand, Richard McLeod, Chris and the team at Bunnings Mt Roskill, Tim White and Mt Albert Plumbing and Gas, O'Briens Plumbing, as well as the Catholic parishes of Christ the King Owairaka, St Dominic's Blockhouse Bay and St Mary's Avondale.

A very special thanks must go to the mother of one of the volunteers. Audrey D'Souza, mother of Adrian, coordinated an extensive fundraising campaign at the parishes above as well as at her work place and neighbourhood and ultimately was responsible for over half the donations made. Thank you very much!!

As the memories still remain of those wonderful days in Poutasi, we have again been recently reminded of the plight of many people, very close to us, who need our help and support. While we are planning a smaller-scale project to assist the people of Christchurch, we can all do something now, such as making a small (or large!) donation, and praying for the victims, their families and all those injured and otherwise affected by the earthquake.

The Samoa Service Project has helped us all to see how fulfilling it can be to give ourselves to others, without the expectation of being paid back. Nevertheless, we were all paid back in so many ways by the amazing people of Samoa, and we are happily indebted to you for that. Until we are lucky enough to visit you and see you again, fa'afetai lava and tofa soifua...