An exchange of photos between friends led to a massive donation of classroom furniture, which will arrive in Apia this week.
After his school was flooded by Cyclone Gita, Reverend Aioso Pili Fata, of Manumalo Baptist School, sent photos of many desks and chairs destroyed by water to his friend in New Zealand.
That friend was Sandy Watson, a teacher in Christchurch. She and her husband Jason, decided something had to be done.
“Jason and Sandy went school by school asking for any old classroom furniture that could be transported down here to us,” said Reverend Fata.
Their appeal was successful. Four schools across Christchurch had furniture to donate.
“They said they have a lot of things, but how are they going to ship them over?”
That’s when the Reverend began making arrangements to ship the furniture over. The school paid for two 20 foot containers to be shipped from Christchurch to Apia, costing more than SAT$14,000.
The Reverend said the donations are worth much more than the cost of the shipping and will serve the school well.
Reverend Fata and Manumalo Principal, Tasi Apati Ieremia Fata, travelled to Christchurch last week to pack the two containers and thank the schools in person.
When they arrived, 20 men and women of the New Zealand Defence Force were there to help and they got the job done in only six hours.
“They helped to collect all the donations from different schools and packed them into the containers for free,” said Reverend Fata.
Reverend and Mrs. Fata said they were amazed at how well organised everything was.
“We were very happy, we didn’t expect anything like this.
“I thought it would take two days for us to do that job, but it was all done on Monday,” said Reverend Fata.
Mrs. Fata said she found the experience very moving.
“Looking at how things worked that day, we knew that our Lord went before us,” she said.
“We were worried because it was not easy to make the plans from here, without seeing anything from the other side of the world.”
But when they got there, the army wasn’t far behind them with trucks full of donations and they quickly packed the containers.
“The weather was good, even though it had been raining for two or three weeks, but it was so good,” said Mrs. Fata.
Following Cyclone Gita, Manumalo Baptist School had to replace more than 100 desks and many of their desktop and laptop computers.
To repair some of the damage, the school’s staff closed the school for a week to clean the field from mud, dry the classrooms and clear out the wrecked furniture.
The staff had to build a new office, and moved the computer lab up a level. The library and old computer lab sit empty waiting for new furniture to have them ready as classrooms.