Samoan Youth Boost Post-disaster Morale and Awareness

Tsunami Clean-Up EffortsIn January 2010, staff from the Pacific Islands Center for Educational Development developed a project plan funded by an urgent award from the Administration for Native Americans. The purpose was to assist villages devastated by the September 2009 American Samoa tsunami.

This plan would educate the island community in disaster preparedness and provide youth with an opportunity to serve affected communities.

During the project’s first two months, PICED staff recruited and provided leadership training for nine youth leaders.  PICED met with local officials to assess needs and discuss the project’s two major endeavors, a village beautification effort and a disaster preparedness campaign. Next, working with village mayors and the American Samoa Department of Education, the team recruited 66 additional youth to work on project activities. 

After several days of safety training, 56 youth took part in clean-ups of six tsunami-affected villages: Faga’itua, Tula, Alofau, Asili, Poloa, and Amanave. In each village, they scoured beaches, shorelines and ditches for trash. 

They removed 7,810 pounds of garbage and debris, and collected   over 1,000 pounds of scrap metal. They also painted curbs, bus stops, and tire planters, installed signs, weeded and cleared overgrown areas and planted coastal shrubs, including 250 plants in the village of Tula. 

Village mayors expressed gratitude to the youth involved and stated the clean-up efforts helped boost community morale in their villages.

Next, the youth launched an island-wide youth-to-youth disaster preparedness outreach campaign. For this, three youth leaders researched the types of disasters most prevalent in American Samoa and studied the preparedness measures used with each kind of disaster. 

Next, they designed the campaign, themed “Code Alert: Aware Today, Prepared Tomorrow,” developing content and outreach strategies to educate community members on the characteristics of tsunamis, earthquakes, floods and hurricanes, and on how to prepare for each.
 
To implement the plan, 17 project youth, including seven project leaders, gave disaster preparedness presentations at 10 local elementary schools, reaching 1,293 children. They posted flyers and hung banners in public locations around the island; created three newspaper ads, which were published 31 times in the Samoa News; produced four radio public service announcements, which received 1,149 plays on three radio stations in three months; and made two video PSAs, which aired frequently on local television over a one-month period.
 
The outreach campaign reached community members of all ages throughout American Samoa. Of 600 community members surveyed about the media campaign, 54 percent said they had heard of the campaign, and 47 percent felt it had improved their capacity to deal with disasters.

Of the 629 elementary school students surveyed after the disaster preparedness presentations in their schools, 96 percent felt better prepared to cope with natural disasters.

According to PICED staff, youth involved in the project learned much about community service, team work, leadership, disaster preparedness, and Samoan culture and political structures. Just as importantly, they had the opportunity to experience being part of a community, and to play an active role in the island’s post-tsunami healing and recovery process.