Tsunami Hits Samoa
Imagine what it would be like for a moment that in one instant you are enjoying life, surrounded by family and friends, those people who are most important to you in life, and then in the next moment, without warning, half of those people around you are now dead. What would it be like for you to watch all your children being swept out to sea and you can do nothing about it? How would you feel if within the space of two minutes you lost your spouse or both your parents and two siblings? What impact would that have on you and your life?
On September 29, 2009, that very scenario played out in the coastal villages of Samoa. 170 people lost their lives without warning when an 8.3-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Samoa, causing a massive Tsunami that wreaked havoc on coastal villages and left a Nation in grief and severely traumatized. It has been reported that some people have lost as many as 7-8 people from their immediate families.
Even months later the nightmare for the Samoan people was far from over as scattered families attempted to come to terms with their losses and begin to try and rebuild their lives. While the estimated financial damage has been placed in excess of over $130 million NZ dollars, the damage that this has caused families and individuals mentally and emotionally will never be able to be fully estimated or understood.
At the invitation of the Samoan Ministry of Health, our New Zealand team of NLP therapists travelled to Samoa on 25 February 2010 on a voluntary basis, for seven days to train local mental health workers and counsellors, and work one-on-one with those requiring help, following the tsunami.
The trip to Samoa began with our Principal Trainer, Dr Richard Bolstad running a three day training course inApia, supported by six Trauma Recovery Team members. The course was opened on day one by the Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Aiono Sailele Malielegoai, welcoming the team and talking about how important the skills people are learning on the training are going to be for what he called re-building people’s minds to enable them to rebuild communities inSamoa.
Participant numbers were even higher than expected with 37 participants representative of a range of community and government organisations including Samoa Lifeline, Ministry of Police & Prisons, Fire Service, Samoan Victim Support, Mental Health Service, UNESCO, United Nations Development Programme and others.
The course was essentially for those who are in first responder roles dealing with trauma victims such as the Police who went to the tsunami area immediately after. These people are at a high risk of being traumatised themselves and so to learn the process in our course and be able to change and heal their own trauma responses, was very powerful for the participants.
Following the training, the team supervised and supported the qualified participants over the next two days in the field to help them integrate their skills and gain confidence as well as running a workshop for UN disaster-response teams.
The trip to Samoa was done on a voluntary basis. The practitioners who participated in the Samoa project were:
Dr. Richard Bolstad
A special thanks goes to those in the NLP community and beyond for the additional support and advice for this project.
The Independent state of Samoa is a postcard of natural beauty that consists of two main islands, Savaii and Upolu and two small islands, Apolima and Manono, plus five uninhabited islands.
Located on the westerly end of the Samoa Archipelago, it is halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand. The capital, Apia, lies on the beautiful north coast of Upolu, the largest and most populous of the country’s nine islands.
It is a visually stunning country that ranges from the rainforest covered volcanic mountain peaks of the two main islands to the vast valleys leading down to crystal clear ocean. The coastline is a wonder in itself, with sparkling white sand beaches, in some places stretching for miles, and here and there are walls of sheer cliffs that drop straight into the Pacific Ocean.
There are also lush green fertile valleys, which within grow banyan trees towering above the rainforest canopy. Cascading waterfalls dropping into rivers that cut jagged lines through the valley floor as they make their way to the ocean.
And beyond the beaches out into the blue lagoons are scattered the rest of the islands that make up the Samoa archipelago, some inhabited, others with only natures wildlife, protected by the fringing coral reef that keep the powerful force of the Pacific Ocean at bay.
Amongst all this natural beauty and picturesque valleys and coastline you will find nu’u or villages with their churches, meeting houses and open fale or homes encircling the malae or village green.
Home to people proud of their strong Fa’a Samoa – cultural heritage – who live along side these natural wonders. For anyone who has travelled there they will know it’s the people, culture and nature that give life to these islands.
Samoa is a traditional society governed by Fa’a Samoa. Fa’a Samoa has three key elements to it – the matai (chiefs), aiga (extended family), and the church. The Fa’a Samoan Culture is over 3000 years old and legends say they descended from the Gods and Heavens to inhabit these islands.
Samoa Tourism Authority www.samoa.travel
Accommodation at Aggie Grey’s www.aggiegreys.com