A team of volunteers recently travelled to Samoa to help build and improve homes, as part of a Habitat for Humanity project from August 26 to September 2. Included in the team were Tony Laulu, Pacific advisor from Skills, along with MPTT trainees from Manukau Institute of Technology (MIT) Paea Vakalahi and Andrew Leota.

Supported by MIT and Skills as well as MPTT, they helped with work including renovations, extensions and cyclone strengthening of existing homes, and building brand new homes. Find out more about the work they did and what they learned about Samoa in Tony’s account of their trip.

Looking fresh and clean at the start of work

Hot and humid

Habitat for Humanity New Zealand have a project in Samoa where volunteers are to assist in building and improving homes. The work includes cyclone strengthening existing homes, renovations of homes, extension of homes or building brand new homes.

Paea, Andrew and I were part of a wider group that went up on 26 August until 2nd September. Eight other volunteers from around NZ who were also part of the habitat build joined us. We arrived to a hot humid Samoa and we were treated with top-notch hospitality from the ADRA team who partner with Habitat for Humanity. We used the first weekend to acclimatize and get familiar with our surroundings, our team and understanding our first working week.

Stuck in

The first week we were able to get stuck in with working with the local builders in renovating a home in Lalovaea. It was hot and humid but with a lot of water and determination, we made it through each day. As the week went on the builders became more trusting of us to do more specific projects such as strapping, knocking out windows, fitting new ones, also measuring, and cutting wood. As we finished the first homes and the first week was coming to a close there was a huge sense of achievement from us but also to see the change of the home from beginning to the end was amazing.

We were able to see a side of Samoa not many tourists get to see. The day to day living of a normal Samoan family, their hospitality, the children’s knowledge of service were all experience’s Paea, Andrew and I learnt from. We were all able to have a good weekend with the group travelling to Savaii! You have not been to Samoa if you have not been to Savaii.

A feast
Great hospitality and hard but rewarding work

Honing skills

The second week was much of the same but the builds were in new locations. Andrew in this week was able to help more with the wiring of houses and advising families on correct electrical practices. There was an obvious need for his knowledge and expertise and the families we visited all were thankful for his help. He was able to show love and understanding when communicating with the local families and took his time explaining what he knows about certain important electrical procedures. He was very influential amongst the builders and families sharing his knowledge with in the electrical space.

Paea, as student in carpentry was able to get a lot more involved with the tools, cutting and measuring boards for a wall to a house. She was able to work alone in putting up a wall and frame for one of the houses. She really came out of her shell and was able to work collaboratively with the local builders to get things done quicker. She was having trouble with cutting a certain piece of wood one time, did not hesitate to ask for assistance, and quickly learnt to do it correctly. Paea was a great asset for the team.

“Going over to Samoa has changed me, because life isn’t always about money. While I was in Samoa I have learnt so many different things I haven’t learnt and seeing how Samoans work as hard as they do I have realized that life ain’t easy, it’s something that you can’t throw away, it’s a blessing. Being in Samoa has helped me see what I can do for myself and for my future. You just need to accept what you have because at the end of the day you will know that you have regret about what you have done”. Paea Vakalahi


(Left) Andrew and Paea sharing their skills. (Right) A hardworking group

Valuable life lessons

This trip for Andrew, Paea and myself all gave us our own valuable lessons. Not too much about the technical aspects of the trades but more so perspective on life, career and family. The whole habitat for humanity team came together as strangers but left as family. We are already planning a reunion!

Thank you MPTT and Skills for giving us an opportunity to give back to the Samoan people. We could not have done it without your support, belief and trust. May God bless Samoa and all those who endeavor to help build families and communities, one home at a time.

Tony Laulu
Pacific Advisor, The Skills Organisation