Friday, January 15, 2010

Final Post for this Blog

I am writing this in my kitchen in Kathmandu, Nepal. I am sorry that it has been so long since the last posting at this blog.
We have moved to Nepal where I will be working as the ADRA Country Director for ADRA Nepal.
You can see our new blog at

I just wanted to put in some photos of our one month holiday in Australia.
The reason why Mazz and the girls left PNG early was to finalise preparations for Tiffany and Hosea (Marilyn's Niece) wedding.

Tiarna and Jenaya were flower girls.

We then went to Main beach Caravan Park at Surfers Paradise for a couple of weeks over Christmas and New Years. It rained most days but it was fun.
Tiarna got a hole in one.
We had Christmas morning with the Chilcott family and the afternoon with the Lewis side...
Here are the Lewis Siblings and our families on Christmas Day.
(L-R) Andrew and Kirsten, Peta and Jaco, Simon and Marilyn, Sonya and Adam.
Kalon, Jaxon, Ethan, Jenaya, Cooper, Tiarna.
On January 2 we flew over to Perth to see my Dad and a bit of Western Australia.
Dad and my Aunty Peg.
Dad lives in Mandurah

This is Busselton jetty - Dad was born in Busselton.
At Cape Naturaliste there were more flies than I have ever seen... we tried to escape by going for a swim but they waited for us to come up from under the water and then landed all over our heads and tried to race up our noses.

We then travelled to Yellingup to see if the flies were there too... they were not as bad.
The girls went for a snorkel and saw heaps of fish. (Yellingup has the 'southern most extent of tropical fish in WA')

Back to Brisbane on Friday, 8 January then out to Nepal on Monday, 11 January.

Hope you can follow our travels again on our new blog.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Samoa Tsunami Response

On October 9th I travelled to Samoa to assist in the ADRA New Zealand and ADRA Australia response to the Tsunami that occurred on September 29 (local date-Samoa is over the International Date Line).

I travelled with Air Nugini via Solomons, Fiji and with Air Pacific on to Samoa. Very expensive! It was a little ‘different’ as I was on standby and most of the plane (Fokker 100) was taken up by a large golf group (16 teams of four – plus others) which included the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea and the Prime Minister of Solomon Islands as well as many of the richest people in Papua New Guinea. If the plane had gone down I would have been in good company! Hahaha

Most flights to Samoa arrive or leave at very inconvenient times. I arrived around 1 am and the next morning made my way to the SDA Mission where I hoped the ADRA team were staying. Here are a couple of photos of the ADRA office (ex transit flat), the Mission HQ, Samoa Adventist College and the Church.

I met Robert Patton and Sara McBride Steele both from NZ. I went to the IASC (Inter Agency Standing Committee is the organising body) meeting.

The weekend was ‘White Sunday’ celebration of Children and as such Monday was also a public holiday.

Robert headed over to American Samoa for the weekend to do an assessment and meet some of the community leaders there. Sara and I thought we would do some ‘normal touristy’ activities instead of the tsunami tourism, so we headed over to Manono Island (in between the main islands of Samoa) to see the “Tomb of 99 Stones” and the “Ancient Star Mound” that we could see on the map. In the end we didn’t get to the ‘star mound’ but saw the Tomb which was being repaired by a careful elder replacing the smaller stones washed away by the tsunami which flowed over it. We met a Matai whose house was damaged, father’s house, jetty and dive boats were destroyed and a NZDF health team who landed in a ‘Huey’ on the foundations of one of the destroyed houses. We all shared a packet of chocolate biscuits given to us by a family who had lost nearly everything… very humbling. He was thankful that no one had died from Manono. Much of the damage was initially caused by the earthquake, the first wave was slightly smaller and allowed people to escape up the hills before the larger more destructive waves came from the side and smashed everything.

On returning to the jetty where ‘Sam’, one of the local boat operators was waiting for us, there was a DMO (Disaster Management Office) team delivering supplies for the tsunami affected families. We helped unload and travelled back to Upolu Island and back to the office.

Sara left the next morning and Robert arrived back from American Samoa where he was fed an enormous amount of food at the local McDonalds! He also arranged for a Management Committee to be set up and receive help from ACS (Adventist Community Services) as it is a US Territory.

On Tuesday, 13th October, I travelled out to Salaeumua, one of the three affected communities ADRA is working with, to help distribute food and clothing to 81 families living in the plantations behind their destroyed village. We were also joined by Craig and Ange from NZ who were out here on a prebooked holiday and wanted to help out.

Wednesday, Thursday and Friday were all filled with meetings and collecting information as well as networking with organisations already working here in Samoa while Eddie, Moleni and others went to start the 'Network Response' which involved distribution of kitchen equipment and garden tools... in the pouring rain.

Saturday, Eddie and I went to visit Salaepaga SDA church which is meeting ina temporary structure. They had invited all the community members and provided a great lunch for all (donated by some local SDA church members).

This was the site of the original Salaepaga SDA church. All that is left is the floor of the toilet block. The rest of the foundation was probably washed out to sea when the 1m deep gully was made here.

We then travelled over to Salaeumua where we had an informative discussion with some locals there too. There were many evidences of the impact on the marine environment - from large reef rocks, mud from the land and housing structures still in the water that need to be cleaned up.

This picture also proves that usually the safest spot in a house is a small room. It does give evidence to many who want to extend their time in the loo. You never know when a cyclone or tsunami may hit. It also shows how it is incredible how anyone survived going through the enormous power of this tsunami.

On returning we travelled down the coast through Poutasi (where a number of tourists died... and you can understand it when you see the impact evidence of the wave) and over the Cross Island Road. Notice the backboard of the basketball ring has been smashed off...

There were also many calls and messages from family and friends as it is my birthday on the other side of the IDL.

Sunday, 18th October was my birthday. Last year I was in Rabaul-next year I will have to be with my family! I shared a meal with Eddie Erika (Melbourne) on the left, and Andrew Feaveai (Brisbane) who are pastors of Samoan churches out here checking out opportunities for further support their churches can make for the Tsunami response.

Monday, 19th October, was a day of writing proposals (the main reason I was invited out here) and more meetings. Theresa and Kolao took me out to dinner. It was a lovely meal beside the waterfront. They had spent four years in Port Moresby and so knew of the security issues that are facing Papua New Guinea. They could understand my appreciation of the local environment of Apia and Samoa in general.

Tuesday 20th October: myself, Moleni Iene (ADRA Samoa Country Director) and Vinay (Red Cross Representative) had discussions with people from Women in Business, Development & Industry – WIBDI, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing – MAFF (Crops Division), Small Business Enterprise Centre – SBEC and South Pacific Business Development – SPBD. These discussions were centred on livelihoods, microfinance and agriculture. Both ADRA Samoa and the Red Cross are looking at providing assistance in the rebuilding of livelihoods in affected communities.

Moleni took me to a meal and Traditional Samoan dancing. The place was nearly empty - like the restaurant last night - "Please come back to Samoa," is what I hear from many tourism operators.

For the last couple of days in Samoa I worked on project activities; interviewing prospective staff members for the NZ Aid funded early response project, meeting various stakeholders with Vinay Raj (Red Cross representative looking at a livelihood project too) and writing the proposals.

I did go shopping for presents for my family in the handicraft market. Only about 20% of the stalls were open and everyone was looking desperate for sales. I bought some shell ear rings, a freshwater pearl necklace and woven bag for Marilyn and some pearl bracelets, shell necklaces for Tiarna and Jenaya.

Travelled to the airport with Moleni and his son at 3:30 am. I flew out to Fiji at 5:20.

I arrived at Nadi airport and booked a place at a backpackers called "Smugglers Cove" for the one night I was in Fiji until the Air Nugini flight left for PNG.

I wanted to do something for the day so I booked a day cruise on a 'sailing ship' to Mystery Island... aka Tuima Island.

After a day of seeing dead and dying coral (nothing compared to what we can see at Salaumua near Lae!) and sleeping under a tree after walking around the little island in 10 minutes, eating a small salad at the very large BBQ (burnt sausages and chops) I laid down for a rest at 5:30pm and the next thing I know it was midnight and missed out on the free show at 7pm! Woke up again at 5:30 am feeling refreshed, had breakfast and went to the airport.

Air Nugini had the only manual check-in process at Nadi. I was only 12 people from the front and it took 1hr 20 min!. In the immigration line there were two older ladies beside me that had joined the queue at the back of the Air Pacific Jumbo flight to Sydney. Probably a hundred people processed in the same time it took Air Nugini. No wonder we left 40 minutes late. After paying over K6,600 for just the Nadi-POM return leg, you would think that they could afford a couple of computers and a boarding pass printer!

Again, a Fokker 100 3 hr flight to Honiara, stop over, then 1.5 hr flight to POM. Of course the plane was delayed from POM to Lae 4 o'clock flight laft at 6:30. (we do not even consider that to be late!)

Home finally at 8 o'clock. Great to be home.