School symbolises Samoan-NZ friendship
When the earthquake rattled the earth on September 29, 2009, Lina Faatuonu and her teachers gathered all the children at Satitoa Primary School and raced up the hill.
All the students and teachers survived but friends and family in neighbouring villages along the southern coast of Samoa did not.
The school was ripped apart. Only its foundations remained.
When he was head of the New Zealand Defence Force, Governor General Sir Jerry Mateparae visited Satitoa just days after the tsunami tore through the village. Yesterday he returned for the first time since.
He was welcomed by giggling, excited children, teachers, chiefs and those from the community. They thanked him for New Zealand's contribution to rebuilding the school, which was built inland and opened on the one year anniversary of the tsunami.
Before the opening students were being taught in a local house, but now the 189 primary school pupils are back at school and feel safe, Ms Faatuonu says.
When they have events or guests to host they erect tents as there is no hall, but that - along with water tanks - is all the school needs. Thanks to New Zealand aid, the foundations are there.
New Zealanders were generous to Samoa in the wake of the tsunami, as were Samoans to New Zealand after the Christchurch earthquake.
New Zealanders were just doing their part to help, Sir Jerry told the people of Satitoa.
"Some of these people were Samoan New Zealanders, others had holidayed here, some were schools or Rotary Clubs, while for many others, Samoa was a friend and neighbour that needed help.
He acknowledged the community's resistance and its commitment to rebuilding the village and the facilities that support it.
"From what I have seen so far you have worked determinedly to restore villages, infrastructure and essential services.
"The school is a true community project built on the labours of local people, with support from New Zealand volunteers."
It was also "symbolic" of the Treaty of Friendship the two countries share, Sir Jerry said.
"You have built a better and safer school for your children. Today, Satitoa Primary serves as an example of what can bed achieved when we work together."
- © Fairfax NZ News