A group of five graduates who have just completed a WelTec or Whitireia pre-trade qualification in plumbing are flying to Apia, Samoa tomorrow where they will put their newly acquired plumbing skills into practice as volunteers with the Samoan Water Authority post Cyclone Evan.
The five, along with WelTec plumbing tutor, Ken Hodge, were farewelled at a ceremony in Wellington today attended by Jackie Frizelle – soon to be New Zealand’s High Commissioner to Samoa, His Excellency Mr Leasi Papali’i Scanlan - the Samoan High Commissioner, and Ministers of the Wellington Samoan Churches Fraternal.
Ms Frizelle addressed the group explaining the impact of Cyclone Evan on Samoa. “There have been lives lost and ten people remain missing. Housing has been destroyed, schools and infrastructure are damaged and there is major disruption to water and electricity. This is a serious event for Samoa and one which the New Zealand government is responding to. $2.6M has been contributed to help with early recovery. Supporting these new plumbing graduates and their tutor to get to Samoa to start work providing the technical support to restore Samoa’s water supply is critical.
“When the Christchurch earthquakes hit, Samoa provided aid to help us. It is fitting and in the spirit of our nations’ friendship that we now support Samoa by sending these pre-trades qualified people to work with the Samoan Water Authority restoring the water supply system.
One of the graduates flying to Samoa is Vinglouin Faleatua (Ving). A father of five with fourteen aunts and uncles in Samoa on his mother’s side, Ving can’t wait to help out his extended family in Samoa. “Before I came to WelTec to study plumbing I managed a tyre servicing business. The work was repetitive and after a while I wanted some new challenges. I spent time remodeling a bathroom with a relative and was hooked. It was easy to switch careers and now as a plumber to be able to do something new every day is really exciting.”
Whitireia graduate, Tufou Aitogi thanked the New Zealand government for the opportunity to go to Samoa. “We are going there to work hard. We are not there to muck around. It’s a great opportunity to put our skills into practice.”
WelTec tutor Ken Hodge acknowledged the opportunity to assist Samoa in its recovery from Cyclone Evan. “Plumbing is all about problem solving. Over half of our work as plumbers is fixing something that is broken. Now we have the ultimate problem to solve. Everybody needs a safe water supply and we’re going there to make sure it happens.”
The graduates’ study was supported by the Tertiary Education Commission through the Pasifika Trades scholarship scheme, launched in 2012; and the training was provided by Whitireia and WelTec. As part of its aid programme the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade is funding the graduates’ travel and living expenses in Samoa.
Photo Caption: Back row (Left to right): Ving Faleatua (WelTec plumbing graduate), Tufou Aitogi (Whitireia plumbing graduate), Ken Hodge (WelTec Tutor), Filipo Wright (WelTec plumbing graduate)
Front row (left to right): Pat Palepua (Whitireia plumbing graduate), Tene Malaki (WelTec plumbing graduate)