The Poutasi Development Trust and Tuatagaloa Joe Annandale

By Sapeer Mayron 30 December 2018, 12:00AM

When tragedy strikes and people lose their lives, everyone around them is changed forever. 

When Poutasi Village was ravaged by a tsunami in 2009, nine people died. 

Poutasi had to change.

Luckily for the village, and eventually the wider district and even Savaii, Poutasi’s residents rallied to build. 

In the years since the disaster, Poutasi, alongside development partners built a memorial hall, community gardens, a primary school and kindergarten and an arts and crafts centre.

This work of the Poutasi Development Trust in bringing all these projects under one roof, ensuring sustainability, progress and growth to the community is why the organisation is a nominee for the Samoa Observer’s Person of the Year 2018.

The Poutasi Development Trust (P.D.T), founded by Tuatagaloa Joe Annandale and run by a team of leaders from Poutasi runs these projects.

“I believe if you can’t sustain something, don’t even go there,” Tuatagaloa said.

“You’re wasting the time, effort and money of the donor and what good is that going to do to the community?”

Tuatagaloa says the leadership team, who manage the different programs, advise each other and challenge each other, and which keeps the trust going.

“If you were to ask me what is the key to the success of the Trust, I would say leadership. 

“I am referring to those who manage the different parts of this moving machine who are very, very important. I can’t stress that enough.”

Not only that, but the relationships the trust has formed with development partners, like the Tindall Foundation, governments of New Zealand and Canada, and various businesses all contribute to its success.

“It’s become really humbling that the people are forever ringing me up asking me Joe, how can we help, we’ve heard such good things about the trust,” said Tuatagaloa.

Poutasi resident and member of the leadership team Leiloa Tumanuvao Fui said she’s seen the changes in her village, and she likes them.

“I am looking and seeing that Poutasi is good, with a school, library and garden. 

“It feels good to deliver vegetables from our garden to the hotels. It’s a lot more opportunities than even 20 years ago.”

One program of particular importance to Tuatagaloa is the Falealili Seasonal Workers Program for seasonal workers, departing Samoa each summer to labour in New Zealand.

Each year, hundreds of people go on New Zealand’s recognised seasonal employment scheme. They work for six months in fruit groves or on building sites, and come back with more money than they might have earned in a year doing the same work.

“The fact that they can go away and at the end of a week hold in their hand what, if they were here, would take months and months to earn, that’s the big difference,” Tuatagaloa said.

Making sure these workers are well equipped to maximise the opportunity is paramount.

Leiloa Tumanuvao Fui is the secretary for the seasonal workers’ program, which among numeracy and literacy programs also teaches men how to budget their huge earnings.

“These men might be single, they might have families. But when they come back they can build a fence for their cows, build a house, get a new car,” she said.

R.S.E allows families to generate income enough — to not only pay for school fees, church donations and fa’alavelave —but also develop their families and further them, Ms Tumanuvao Fui said.

This year, the Poutasi Development Trust forged a partnership with the Small Business Enterprise Centre (S.B.E.C), who now runs financial training for the workers to help them begin small businesses or ventures, to invest their earnings in something bigger.

““They go away and they earn really good money,” Tuatagaloa said.

“So we would like them to start thinking in terms of little businesses, developing their plantations in an orderly, commercial way so that their families they leave behind each year — when they go to pick apples — are well taken care of.”

Not only that, they only get “three bites at it” – Tuatagaloa wants the men to have invested enough in three trips away to move on and be independent.

Numeracy, literacy and financial planning are backed up by teaching the men how to value the opportunity they’ve taken up, in “boot-camp” to get their mind-sets prepared before they leave.

“This is their future. If they goof up, they’re home,” Tuatagaloa said. Being away for the festive season makes acting out more tempting, too, such as drinking in excess or leaving the worksites overnight.

“This is why I keep saying to them: value what you are doing, value the opportunity. You are making such a huge sacrifice to be in New Zealand. 

“So value it, don’t blow it on short term pleasures.”

January 2019 also brings opportunities to send seasonal workers to Australia under their scheme.

While Australia holds the potential to take up to a thousand people, Tuatagaloa knows that the villages need their men too.

““We have to be careful that we don’t send too many young men from our villages, and therefore leave the daily lives of families in jeopardy, because we’re taking too much of the muscle out of families and out of communities,” he said.

The careful planning and consideration behind the seasonal workers program of the Poutasi Development Trust is evident in their other programs too. 

In their memorial hall (built by trainee carpenters who have all gone on to work in construction, some even as foremen, Tuatagaloa shared), stands today a nearly ready commercial kitchen.

Joe Lam of Scalini’s fame designed it as a training kitchen to teach Poutasi residents about healthy eating, and to cater to the primary school canteen and village functions.

The produce for the kitchen will come from the vegetable garden grown by the children of the school, of course, which is by careful design.

Tammy Mauala, manager of the Poutasi Development Trust said the kitchen is a way to get families out of eating chicken and noodles, and choosing healthy local options instead.

“There are loads of herbs here that a lot of our community have no idea what they are,” she said

“It’s about giving them other options to cook and use what’s available.”

Ms Mauala said locally grown food like chives, turmeric, ginger and coriander are all ways to make food exciting again.

“It’s exposing our people to a better way of eating… we’re finding with our preschool, the families are buying things for breakfast and lunch that are really unhealthy.”

Getting the youth of Poutasi excited about the programs is the next step, and that will mean spending more time with them, and involving them in the Poutasi Development Trust, Ms Maula said.

Now, Tuatagaloa is looking ahead and planning for the worst: a sign the trust was formed in very capable hands.

“I’m very conscious that I’m at the end of my, well, towards the end of my life. 

“I have to plan for my eventual departure so that the trust can live on,” Tuatagaloa said.

“We owe that to the donors, to the people who have been part of this journey from day one, that things will continue to survive, to live past me.

By Sapeer Mayron 30 December 2018, 12:00AM

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