Mormon Newsroom
News Story

Samoan Latter-day Saints Bring Food to Tongan Cyclone Victims

A fishing boat full of food donated by Samoan members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was unloaded Tuesday [April 15] in Ha’apai, Tonga. It will be distributed to families still recovering from the devastation of January’s Cyclone Ian.

The Samoan Latter-day Saints remember their long and difficult recovery from the after effects of Cyclone Evan, which hit Upolu, Samoa in December 2012 and saw this as a way to personally “give back” for the help they received.

Elder Meliula M. Fata, a senior leader in the Church, received a phone call late last week informing him that the boat would be stopping in Apia, Samoa before leaving for Ha’apai. Would the members of the Church on Upolu be willing to donate, harvest, prepare and load 120 sacks of taro on such short notice?

Elder Fata readily accepted the challenge and immediately sent word to the leaders and members of the Samoa North, Samoa East, Samoa South, Nuumau, Saleilua, Tafuaupolu, Aleisa,and  Faleasiu Stakes on Sunday.

On Monday individual families harvested and bagged taro from their own farms and gardens. On Tuesday, members from the Pesega and Apia Central Stakes travelled over much of the island in Church-owned trucks to bring the bags to the Church’s Samoa Service Center to trim, scrape, clean and rebag the taro.

Motisha Solo, a member of the Apia Central Stake who travelled with the trucks, said, “It was humbling to see members, many living in small huts, giving food harvested from their small farms and gardens. Each sack can be worth a lot of money to them. I was blessed to witness these miracles.”

“It was really good to see how quickly and how well the members responded,” said Fuimaono Sam Te’o, a member of the Presidency of the Apia Samoa Stake. He added that when each stake received its assignment for the number of bags to gather, the leaders begged for the chance to give more. “Ten bags became twenty, fifteen became thirty,” he said.

At the Service Center, volunteers spent the entire night cleaning, preparing and re-bagging the taro. In the morning they trucked the cargo to the wharf and loaded it onto the waiting boat, the Manaolemoana.

The boat’s size limited the amount of taro which could be sent. Originally that was to have been 120 sacks. The taro project’s leaders convinced the captain to accept 150. (Each sack held about 45 kilos.)

They had 30 sacks left over so 14 were donated to the Samoan Victim Support Group and 16 to the Mapuifagalele Home for the Aged.  The SVSG was especially appreciative of the food, as their supplies were low.

The taro arrived in Ha’apai, Tonga on Monday [14 April], just one week after being harvested. It was unloaded the next day immediately after government officials gave their final approval.

Latter-day Saint General Authority and member of the Pacific Area Presidency, Elder O. Vincent Haleck, made the boat available for the humanitarian effort and also arranged that it be loaded in American Samoa with 20 bales of flour, 10 cases of tinned fish and 10 cases of frozen chicken. It had just enough room left over for 120 bags of taro. With a little extra work, that became 150 bags.

Taimalie Saapele Faalogo, a member of the Church’s Samoa National Public Affairs Council expressed gratitude for the people who volunteered to help, and added, “It was a miracle to accomplish so much on such short notice.”

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