A place to take shelter when disaster strikes: new evacuation centres officially opened in Samoa with Negotiated Partnerships.

Oct 13, 2022

Three new evacuation centres have now been opened and officially dedicated to the community in Samoa, an impactful outcome of the Negotiated Partnerships (NP) programme.  

In late September, key members from Habitat for Humanity New Zealand touched down in Samoa to celebrate the completion of these three centres and visit two existing centres in the communities of Salamumu, Gagaifoilevao, Vaimauga, TuiAopo, and Fatuvalu on the islands of Savai’i and Upolu. A total of 11 community evacuation centres have been a direct result of Habitat’s community-led work in the Pacific. These buildings will also be used as community centres year-round to host activities and events, with the largest of the centres also used as a school hall to enrich education.  

“This trip was a fantastic opportunity to see the success and tangible outcomes of Habitat’s work first-hand,” says Val Hayes, National Communications Manager for Habitat New Zealand. 

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The visit was also a timely reminder of the ever-present risk that cyclone season (November-April), natural disasters, and other extreme weather events pose in the Pacific. They can destroy whole villages, taking any sense of home and stability with it.  

In October, International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction (IDDRR) aims to promote a global culture of reducing existing risk in the face of destructive disasters to minimise the harm to people, assets and livelihoods.  

Mitigating the risk and losses of disastrous events is what Habitat strives to do with our Participatory Approach to Safe Shelter Awareness (PASSA), Build Back Safe (BBS), and Financial Literacy trainings. 


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Key members of Habitat, ADRA Samoa staff, and the local PASSA Committee standing on the steps of the TuiAopo Centre after the opening ceremony.


Facilitated in partnership with ADRA Samoa, these trainings teach enthusiastic local participants how to cyclone strap shelters for durability, strengthen their own homes, assess potential risks in their community, and learn basic skills in project management and finance for both individual and community projects.   

Habitat’s fundraising contribution to the Pacific is match-funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade under the Negotiated Partnerships (NP) programme which strengthens our mission of building stability and self-reliance in the Pacific.  


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Alan Thorp, Habitat New Zealand Group CEO, and Amuimuia Tausagimaiomanu Sia Alao, the oldest PASSA participant in the village of Salamumu, Gaga’emauga, at age 82. He contributed his local and traditional knowledge to the development of the historical profile and community mapping conducted as part of PASSA training.


It was through skills learned in PASSA, BBS, and Financial Literacy training that participants independently identified the lack of evacuation centres as a great risk to their community in the face of disaster and so work began to mitigate this risk. These trainings empower people in the Pacific to become knowledgeable decision makers in their community and better prepare for the weather-related risks they face.  


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A look inside the dedication ceremony of the Vaimauga Evacuation Centre and new Vaimauga College school hall.


The largest centre Habitat visited was the Vaimauga centre, where a ceremony took place to officially dedicate the building to the community. This ceremony was attended by the Hon. Acting Prime Minister, Tuala Tevaga Iosefo Ponifasio, the deputy Head of State His Excellency Le Mamea Ropati, and the Japanese Consul His Excellency Senta Keisuke.  

The large building will be used as a school hall for over 600+ Vaimauga College students from 10+ districts and will serve the district of Vaimauga year-round, benefiting over 25,000+ people.  

Habitat pledged initial funds to this project, which then inspired other partners to donate and make this building possible. The Vaimauga community also raised funds themselves and was able to match Habitat’s contribution, ensuring the risk they identified in their community would be addressed in the completion of this project.  

Since the school started throughout its history, we haven’t had a school hall, which is one of the most important places for every school to have for gatherings when we have guests […] Everything that is important to the school all takes place at the hall,” says Vaimauga College Principal, Fuimaono Tovio Taefu, to the Samoa Observer. 


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Alan Thorp, Habitat New Zealand Group CEO, speaking at the opening ceremony of the Salamumu evacuation centre.


“With the cyclone season fast approaching, the people of Salamumu on the Southwest coast of Upolu are now in a better position to find shelter at the worst of times,” writes Sialai Sarafina Sanerivi from the Samoan Observer.  

The community of Salamumu welcomed Alan to speak at the ribbon cutting event. Speaking on behalf of the village, Orator and Elder, Faaso’otauloa Tito, expressed his gratitude to Habitat for Humanity and ADRA for their assistance in the project. 


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The Gagaifoilevao Evacuation Centre.


The Gagaifoilevao and community centre, located on the South coast of Upolu Island, is currently in use and serving the community. During the pandemic, this building was used as a clinic to facilitate Covid-19 vaccinations.   


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A sign attached to the Fatuvalu Evacuation Centre in Sava’aii. PASSA and BBS training are at the heart of these 11 completed evacuation centres.


Habitat is committed to helping communities build on existing strengths, increase stability and promote self-reliance through the establishment of a safe shelter solution which benefits the whole community. This is how Habitat builds strength, self-reliance and a culture of disaster risk reduction. Donate today to support resilience in the Pacific.