New Playground Serves as Community Gathering Place for Tsunami-hit Village

American Samoa Department of Parks and RecsOn Sept. 29, 2009, an 8.1 magnitude undersea earthquake southwest of American Samoa produced a series of tsunamis that caused 31 deaths in the territory. 

Despite losing all but two homes to the tsunami, Amanave, a village on the southwestern tip of the island, experienced no loss of life. Morale in Amanave, however, was low, as almost everything there was destroyed. 

In addition to the structures wiped out by the tsunami, the village park at Amanave Beach was swept away, rendering a valued community gathering place useless for recreation and social activities.

In the months following the tsunami, staff from American Samoa Government’s Department of Parks and Recreation, with input from Amanave village leaders, developed a project to restore Amanave Beach Park.

After receiving grant funding from the Administration for Native Americans, the project coordinator ordered a pre-made play structure, a pirate ship with a twisting slide, textured incline, and other features, from a vendor in Michigan, and had it  shipped to American Samoa.

While the ready-made structure was en route, local youth groups and community members, including the local community police, worked with project staff to clean up the beach, carry sand to the park in buckets, and prepare the park grounds. 

Local women assisted with the landscaping, planting coastal shrubs around the park grounds. When the kit arrived, the carpenter hired for the project assembled the play structure, and Department of Parks and Recreation staff installed picnic tables and trash cans.  Over a three-month period, nearly all of the 300 Amanave villagers participated in the park’s revival.  

On April 4, 2011, the people of Amanave, along with the Governor of American Samoa and various public officials, celebrated the opening of the new playground.  When the playground was unveiled, parents, community members, and the assembled leaders watched and celebrated as children ran to the pirate ship, jumped on, and began to play. 

Project team members and community members feel the project has helped rebuild social cohesion and boost the morale of people in Amanave.  Villagers view the park as a safe, healthy gathering place where youth can gather after school and families can relax and have fun.