A group of sisters and cousins from the Matuauto family based in Melbourne mobilised the Samoa diaspora in Australia under ‘Project Fatu’ to receive an overwhelming amount of support that led to the delivery of over 200 boxes to help ease the burden for those on the ground facing the impacts of the Samoa measles outbreak.
Responding to questions from Samoa Global News, Tui Hicks-Toelupe said their small group had set out with a goal of 20-30 boxes and $5 thousand tala cash. They had made a call for donations based on a list given by the National Emergency Operation Centre (NEOC) here in Samoa, and they set up a Go Fund Me page to help with transport and freight costs.
What transpired was evident of the love and emotion felt by overseas Samoans towards the measles epidemic that has rocked the country, claiming the lives of 79 people, most of them children under the age of 4.
Samoans and non-Samoans responded to Project Fatu in a way the organisers could never have imagined, and their goal of sending the shipments in time for Chirstmas has been achieved.
“In the end we ended up with 209 boxes and over AUD$20,000 raised on GFM which was a relief as we were starting to feel the pressure of having to get all these boxes to Samoa within a decent time frame.”
Through coordination and help from Samoa Airways and Air New Zealand, and huge discounts from a Samoan-owned and operated freight forwarder, the first shipment arrived last week and the second shipment arrives today, just in time for Chirstmas as they had hoped.
Mrs Toelupe says that Samoa Airways was contacted and immediately agreed to airfreight the donations to Samoa.
“I think Samoa Airways was under the impression we’d have about 20 boxes to send, not 10 times that!”, says Mrs Toelupe with a smile.
The team in Brisbane and the Gold Coast donated 10 large boxes. Sydney put together 24 boxes and within Melbourne, 209 boxes.
The boxes from Australia are filled with various types of “packs” that have been specially packaged for specific purposes to include things that are useful and practical.
– 410 packs with nappies, baby wipes, towels, calamine lotion, face washers, pillow cases, hand sanitizer, back packs, cereal, up & go.
– 143 Bedding Packs, each with 2 x pillows, pillow cases, a sheet, hand sanitizer and a towel.
– 175 Activity Packs with colouring books, cereal, up & go, pencils, crayons, pencil cases, textas, lollies and toys
– 24 Carer Packs with soaps, sanitizer, shaver, toothpaste, toothbrush, mini combs and other items.
“In addition to the packs, we were able to put together boxes filled with medical equipment for the hospitals, and boxes with snacks for the volunteers and medical staff,” said Mrs Toelupe.
“Lots of boxes filled with Up & Go and baby wipes!”
Samoa Global News were on sight when the truck full of boxes from Australia arrived last week but the load was only the first part of two shipments.
“We really wanted these to arrive before Christmas and we’re so blessed that we’ve been able to send the two loads this past week.”
“We wanted and felt the need to help our people back home. We didn’t lose any loved ones to the epidemic but we really felt the loss of those families;
“We believe the reason why so many people resonated with our plea for help is that they felt the same sense of loss and helplessness too”.
Mrs Toelupe shares that the generosity of people has left them amazed at the love and support for Samoa.
“The pocess has been nothing short of a miracle, Samoans and non-Samoans even interstate and overseas have given so generously;
“And to the volunteers that helped day and night to pack and box everything, and to the freight company who helped ease the process; to the people on the ground in Samoa.., we have witnessed something truly amazing;
“Project Fatu is merely a vehicle providing a way for all these amazing people to help with the relief efforts.”
Mrs Toelupe adds that the Samoa measles epidemic will go down in history as a tragic time for Samoa.
“It is an unfortunate tragedy and we just wanted to help ease the burden of those on the ground”.