As with my prior visits, I am thoroughly enjoying my week in Samoa. The schedule is packed with productive meetings and interesting events, including a celebration of the 25th anniversary of the establishment of our Embassy in Apia. The highlight so far, though, was the ceremony opening a new U.S.-funded medical center near Faleolo Airport.

By the plaque with Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, Colonel Bryan Suntheimer from Pacific Command, and Health Minister Tuitama Leao Tuitama.

With Prime Minister Tuilaepa, Colonel Suntheimer from Pacific Command, and Health Minister Tuitama.

A project of the U.S. Pacific Command, the new Faleolo Medical Center sits in the village of Satapuala and will serve people living on the western side of Upolu and on Manono. The facility was designed in consultation with Samoa’s Ministry of Health so that center would suit local needs and circumstances rather than some cookie-cutter template. We utilized Samoan workers, materials, contractors, and vendors so that the significant cost of the project would flow directly into the Samoan economy, which I think is very important.

The obligatory group shot out the front of the center.

Group photo at the ceremony.

After more than a year of work, it was a pleasure to cut the ribbon and open the facility. In attendance on a clear sunny day were more than a hundred guests including dignitaries such as Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, Minister of Health Tuitama Leao Dr. Talalelei Tuitama, Minister of Justice Fiame Naomi Mataafa, National Health Services Chairman Tupuola Oloialii Koki Tuala, National Health Services General Manager Leota Lai Sio, Satapuala Mayor Ga Sakaria, NGO and church leaders, and U.S. Pacific Command’s Colonel Bryan Suntheimer.

Cutting the ribbon with Health Minister Tuitama Leao Tuitama.

Cutting the ribbon with Health Minister Tuitama.

After the local pastor blessed the facility and a village choir sang several songs, the Prime Minister delivered a keynote address that emphasized the cooperation between the American and Samoan Governments on important matters of health. I then spoke in the spirit of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, thanking the many individuals and groups that contributed to the project, including the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and the Government of Israel for donating sophisticated medical equipment and supplies.

Local cultural group performing for the guests.

Satapuala villagers perform for the guests.

I presented the Minister with the key, and he and I cut the ribbon to open the medical center. The guests then toured the facility and sat to enjoy hospitality and entertainment arranged by the village. It was a great way to start my last visit to Samoa as Ambassador – celebrating something wonderful built for Samoans by Samoans with a little help from their American friends.

Fa’afetai ma ia manuia.

DH Sig