Church youth building classrooms at Vaimea

A group of 23 youth from across the United States are hard at work this week laying the foundations for two new classrooms at Vaimea Primary School.

The group is the first of five delegations of volunteers, who have reached Samoa’s shores with the Humanitarian Experience for Youth (H.E.F.Y.) program. H.E.F.Y is youth organisation for young members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Vaimea Primary School is the recipient of their charity, thanks to a parent of the school who knew about H.E.F.Y’s work, and reached out. Principal Tonuu Fuamoli Amituanai said her school is blessed to be receiving the help.

“Our words will never be enough to thank them," Tonuu said. 

Recently, the Rotary Club donated 130 desks, 125 computers and six laptops to the school, but she has nowhere to install them.

“My schools numbers are growing so fast and I am desperate for classrooms,” she said.

Tonuu is happy to have the volunteers in the school because it is good for the children to be exposed to different people, and practice their English too.

“The most important part for me is the heart of those people, that are coming not only to Samoa to visit and look at our culture - it was amazing to see these students work together with my kids in the ava ceremony,” she said.

She said she preferred having the youth build the classroom over 10 weeks is better than contractors quickly putting up the buildings in less time.

To give volunteering opportunities to as many youth as possible, H.E.F.Y. will send five groups of near 20 teenagers to Samoa over the next ten weeks to work on the classrooms. They should be ready by the end of August.

19-year-old Megan Summers said she feels a personal connection to the people of Samoa.

“They truly show how the rest of the world should act when it comes to giving to others and being so eternally grateful for everything they given.

“Though some have very little themselves they give more than ever. That’s something I want to learn to apply in my life,” Ms Summers said.

This is Ms Summers’ first opportunity to do overseas humanitarian work, but she said she has wanted to do this since she was 12. Being in Samoa has taught her to appreciate “tender mercies”, and to share workloads with her friends and peers. Plus, how to handle the hard labour of building.

“Digging up the roots yesterday, that was really intimidating and challenging, but we have worked over halfway through it now so why stop?”

Truman Peterson is 19 years old and comes from Idaho Falls, Idaho. He said he came to Samoa to have fun, and to return to a country he visited as a baby, but couldn’t remember.

“When we went to the sliding rocks yesterday I did remember that because I have seen videos of my mom sliding down with me as a baby,” Mr Petersen shared.

“It’s been fun, and a lot of work,” he said about the building work. He had a summer job laying foundations so it’s not too new to him.

“Everyone is very giving and is nice to each other, and very welcoming. It’s been a good experience so far.”

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