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The best thing I’ve ever done

Air Force Corporal Maria Captien in Samoa
Air Force Corporal Maria Captien in Samoa (20110127_WN_S1015680_0038)

In May 2010 I took part in a two-week voluntary building project in Samoa with Habitat for Humanity.

They were calling for both skilled and un-skilled volunteers to help rebuild homes destroyed in the Samoa tsunami. I had no experience building, but I figured I could use a hammer and handsaw, and push a wheelbarrow with the best of them!

The 'Samoa Hope' project involved building over 100 new 'fales' (homes) for the people of Samoa. I applied for leave and spent two very hot weeks hammering in roofing nails, mixing and pouring umpteen wheel-barrow's of concrete and digging post holes. The experience was special to me as I had been involved with the initial disaster reconnaissance efforts from 5 Squadron RNZAF when they sent an Orion up immediately after the tsunami.

It was a real eye-opener to walk around and see at ground level the wrecked buildings and all the damage. But the best part was sitting down with the locals during our rest breaks and hear their stories and to see the smiles on their faces when we arrived each day to start building their new homes.

Many local people mentioned that they had seen the RNZAF’s Orion flying over directly after the tsunami, and it was great to be able to promote the Air Force in Samoa and let the people there know the type of missions we fly to support them when they need us.

My superiors were very willing to support my involvement with this project, and it was great that Flying Officer James Arnott-Steel, (a 5 Squadron pilot who was actually on the disaster reconnaissance flight right after the tsunami) was able to come over and participate as well.

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