When on holiday in Samoa last year, Sandy and Jason Watson heard some children singing in Manumalo Baptist School. Before they knew it, the couple was in the school and Sandy was teaching them te reo Māori songs and chatting with the staff. 

Cyclone Gita relief

When the Watsons heard that Cyclone Gita had devastated the school in February 2018, they decided to see if they could help. In Jason’s role as a mental health nurse in the School Based Mental Health Team, he often connects with school staff. It was not long before a counsellor at Avonside Girls High School (AGHS) in Christchurch informed him that, due to the school moving sites next year, they had a lot of used equipment that needed a new home.

Over the next two months, Jason received similar offers from Bamford School, Cust School, St Albans School, Rangiora New Life School and the Southern Health School. There were also surplus supplies from the Ministry of Education and The Princess Margaret Hospital. The New Zealand Army collected all the equipment, transported it to AGHS and loaded it into two 20-foot containers. At tools-down on Monday 16th April, a significant volume of equipment had been loaded, including more than 200 student desks and 130 chairs. 

In July the Watsons headed back to Samoa with 80 personal care packages for women, plus children’s clothing and linen. They also shipped 12 banana boxes of donated school journals, footballs and pumps, baby products, laptops, children’s gifts and health care items. Rangiora Baptist Church donated towards the cost of the shipping containers, held a fundraising sausage sizzle, gave financial contributions and offered prayer support.

On the ground in Samoa

Whilst in Samoa, Sandy provided professional development to the teachers on classroom music teaching, and Jason talked to senior students about anxiety management, and undertook CPR demonstrations and instruction with the staff and senior students. They participated in the Manumalo Poutasi satellite school’s cultural day, spoke at a church service and shared with various individuals.

The couple also made valuable contacts with officials for future ventures. They are already planning a return visit in 2019 to take much-needed hospital and medical supplies for the Poutasi Hospital and the elderly. They are also collecting school books and supplies for the Manumalo Baptist Schools.

“We would like to thank the many thoughtful and helpful people—too numerous to mention here—who have contributed to these projects, and who continue to contribute in so many ways,” says Jason and Sandy.

Story: Jason and Sandy Watson

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