Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Lani Goes Back to the People of the Galu Afi

From the Samoa Observer - 7th Sept, 2011.

Faletaulupe with her mother Suliane in 2009. Saleaumua..

“This is a blessing for us at a very sad time, thank you so much.” These were the words of Faletaulupe Lui of Saleaumua on Friday 2nd of September, as she gratefully accepted her monetary gift from the sale profits of the book Pacific Tsunami Galu Afi .

Two years ago, author Lani Wendt Young interviewed Faletaulupe and her elderly mother Suliane about their tsunami survivor story. “Both women were so welcoming of me and generously shared their 29/09 experiences. Suliane was over 95yrs old and so I was particularly interested in speaking with her about her recollections of previous historical tsunami events in the area.”

In October 2010, Lani returned to Saleaumua to gift the family with their complimentary copies of the book and once again, was able to visit with Faletaulupe and her mother. “To be able to give survivors a copy of the book that contained their story was the most personally rewarding part of this project. People had entrusted their stories to a complete stranger, not knowing whether a book would really happen. Many people were moved to tears when they were able to see their experiences recorded in a book that has an international audience. I’m grateful to the Australian Govt Aid program that funded the printing of the books, making it possible for us to give away over 200 copies to survivors and rescuers in Samoa and American Samoa.”

As originally envisioned by Mr Joe Keil – the owner and editor of the book – the purpose of the project was “to ensure that a record was made of the disaster and any profits from the books sale were to be given back to those survivors who featured in the book.”

It has been a year since Pacific Tsunami Galu Afi was launched and Lani has spent the last two days, travelling to Aleipata and Falealili districts, giving over sixty different families a monetary gift. Mr Keil explained, “We have not yet sold all the 5,000 books but we wanted to give people a mealofa on the tsunami anniversary month, something that could be helpful for their families as they continue to rebuild their lives. Hopefully next year as book sales continue, we will again be able to do something similar.”

People were pleasantly surprised to receive the money. Tina Niusila of Saleapaga said, “I never expected this money. I was so happy to get my copy of the book last year and I share it with my family. It’s very important that we have a record like this, I never want my children to forget these things that happened.” 9yrold Perota Susuga of Saleapaga was the youngest person interviewed for the book and he was thrilled to also be remembered with his envelope. Lotolua Niumatapele of Lepa said, “I treasure my copy of the book because it’s a valuable record for all of us. I encourage everyone to read it and I even lent my book to the principal of our village school so that she could share it with the students.”

Lani is now based in New Zealand and she appreciated the opportunity to travel to Samoa and meet again with families she had interviewed for the book. It was a bittersweet visit with Faletaulupe’s family though as they were preparing for a funeral – Suliane died on Sunday last week, passing away peacefully in her sleep. Lani said, “I was sorry to have missed seeing Suliane again and I’m glad that the book project is able to help her family in some small way at this sad time.”
Tofilau Afatasi of Poutasi with his book and money.
Lotolua Niumatapele of Lepa with her gift.

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