We’ve built a library in Samoa; the Clea Salavert Library at Lalomanu Primary School. We built it for the children of Lalomanu who lost so much, as we did, in the tsunami of 29 September 2009. More than 40 children were lost from that village; a generation gone in a flash.
Clea loved reading and she loved the beach. It seems fitting to honour her memory with a library by the beach (well, not too from the beach).
Our family and friends provided the funds and with our connections in Samoa, the library was constructed within a year of the tsunami. Clea’s school, Amaroo School, collected more than 4,000 books and resources for the children of Lalomanu and the Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade transported the books to Apia and then onto Lalomanu. We had assistance from many, many people. Someone told me that I was giving her a practical way to help us. She knew that she couldn’t help emotionally or physically but with the library she could donate money and hence, support us in some way. I had not realised that we were doing that until she told me.
Jorge has a blog which traces the journey of the project and he continues to add to this blog – http://salavert-lalomanu.blogspot.com/.
The library was opened in October 2010 and we returned to Samoa for the opening. Again, we walked on that beach, retracing our steps searching for our daughter. Of course, she was not there and it is a very different beach now. It is steep and short; and the reef sits low in the water. There are gouges in the surrounding landscape and many, many dead trees which couldn’t survive soaking in salt water.
It is more than a year now since the opening of the Clea Salavert Library and next week Jorge and I will again return to Samoa, this time without any of our children. We will be attending the annual prize-giving day at Lalomanu Primary School and taking a few more books, bears and puppets with us for the children of Lalomanu. We will also be talking to the Ministry for Education about making sure the library is well used and sustainable into the future; we will meet with the Library Association of Samoa to find ways in which they can assist the library further; and, we will continue to build on our relationship with the Australian High Commission in Apia.
Unfortunately, one of our best benefactors, Fuataga Kasimani the Matai of Lalomanu, is gravely ill in a New Zealand hospital. He was instrumental in getting the library built in his village as he knows how important education is to the future of his people. We hope to see some of his family but are well aware that they are all with him in New Zealand. We wish him good health and hope to see him again one day soon.
I have always found the library difficult because it would not be there were it not for the death of my child. And I would prefer to have my child than a library.