HELPING FRIENDS

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When Embassies and Consulates function well they improve and sometimes save lives. Thus, I have never been prouder of my colleagues than during the days following the earthquake that devastated the city of Christchurch on February 22, 2011, when our entire Mission mobilized around a single priority. The post below is one of my favorites because it recounts Embassy inner workings that most folks don’t see, and because it highlights the extraordinary service of those caught in the midst of the natural disaster.

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CHRISTCHURCH EARTHQUAKE: TEAMS IN MOTION
March 6, 2011

It has been quite awhile since I last posted to my blog. I very much regret the extended silence, but I assure you it wasn’t a result of inattention or lack of motivation.

Since 12:51pm on Tuesday, February 22nd, we at the Embassy have laser-focused our attention and efforts on responding to the Christchurch earthquake. As I will describe below, when a natural disaster or other crisis strikes, an Embassy has a wide range of critical functions to perform, and those activities necessarily push everything else off the table for awhile.

Christchurch Cathedral moments after the earthquake.

As those of you who follow me on Twitter know, about a dozen of my colleagues and I were in Christchurch February 20-22 for the US-NZ Partnership Forum at the AMI Stadium, along with almost 200 other attendees. The Forum convenes every 18 months, alternating between Washington and New Zealand, to discuss bilateral and business topics. There are usually 50 official delegates from each country, plus spouses and a variety of presenters and observers.

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As the Typhoon Yolanda relief effort continues in the Philippines, I thought I would share an update from our Embassy in Manila that was released over the weekend. It’s the best summary that I’ve seen of the American response in the immediate aftermath of the storm.

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U.S. Embassy Manila
Media Release
November 15, 2013

On November 8, Typhoon Yolanda hit the central Philippines, bringing strong winds and heavy rains, and a storm surge causing flooding, landslides, and widespread loss of life and damage. Since the start of this calamity, the United States has been working closely with our partners in the Philippines to provide rapid and effective relief.

The U.S. Government announced $20 million in humanitarian assistance, including emergency food aid and critical relief supplies for disaster-affected areas. These supplies will not only provide life-saving care in the immediate aftermath of the storm but will also help prevent illness and death from waterborne and communicable diseases.

Hygiene kits and water containers in the distribution area. These commodities make up the first wave of life-saving supplies for the disaster-affected families in Samar and Leyte, supported by OFDA/USAID. Photo credit: USAID.

Hygiene kits and water containers in a distribution area established by OFDA/USAID.

On November 12, President Obama spoke with President Aquino of the Philippines to express deep condolences on behalf of the American people for the lives lost and damage caused by Super Typhoon Yolanda. They discussed the need for a speedy assessment of what further American resources would be most helpful to assist in the Philippine recovery effort.

The United States was the first to respond to a request for assistance from the Philippine Government, and the Department of Defense immediately mobilized the 3d Marine Expeditionary Batallion to provide airlift capability, in coordination with USAID/OFDA.

Emergency relief supplies flown into the airport are trucked to a nearby warehouse at Tacloban Task Force Headquarters and sorted. From here, the Philippine Department of Social Welfare and Development--who is the lead local agency in charge of aid distribution-- gets the commodities out to affected municipalities. Photo credit USAID.

Emergency relief supplies flown into the airport are trucked to a nearby warehouse at Tacloban Task Force Headquarters for distribution.

The United States has undertaken the following actions:

    • In advance of the storm, The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) prepositioned a Disaster Assistance Response Team in the region.   USAID is working closely with the Department of Defense (DoD) on the airlift of emergency relief supplies, including emergency shelter materials—like heavy-duty plastic sheeting—as  well as soap, toothbrushes, toilet paper, sanitary supplies, to help 10,000 families, and the transportation of relief personnel to areas cut off by the storm.

 

    • As part of the $20 million in humanitarian assistance, USAID airlifted 55 metric tons of emergency food products to Cebu and onward. The shipment includes highly nutritious bars and paste—containing a day’s worth of calories—to sustain approximately 20,000 children and 15,000 adults for about 4 to 5 days.

 

    • An initial shipment of USAID/OFDA heavy-duty plastic sheeting and hygiene kits arrived in Manila on November 12 and was immediately airlifted to Tacloban by the U.S. Marines, who since November 12 have flown more than 108 sorties and airlifted more than over 384,000 pounds (174,000 kilos) of relief supplies. and assisted with transport of civilians out of the affected area.
An airman with the Philippine Air Force offloads Filipino civilians out of a U.S. Marine C-130 Hercules aircraft at Villamor Air Base. United States marines and sailors are supporting the Armed Forces of the Philippines by providing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to affected areas following Typhoon Yolanda. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Marine Corps)

The Philippine Air Force and U.S. Marines are working together to evacuation Filipino civilians from the hardest hit disaster areas.

    • Currently the Marines are flying on a 24 hour schedule and have brought in more aircraft to move supplies and equipment, making the total now 12 C-130s and 8 MV-22 Ospreys.

 

    • On November 14 the Ospreys with a 20 ton carrying capacity and the ability to land like a helicopter and fly like an airplane, began delivering supplies directly to outlying areas.  First to Guian but in the coming days they will fly to other areas designated by our Philippine partners as having the greatest need.

 

    • The USS George Washington Carrier Strike Group arrived November 14. Already the support vessels and helicopters have begun transporting water and other supplies to affected areas.  The aircraft carrier USS George Washington carries 5,000 sailors, more than 80 aircraft and can produce 400,000 gallons of fresh drinking water per day.

 

A fishing boat (foreground) passes by the aircraft carrier USS George Washington as it sails out of Hong Kong on November 12, ,2013 to join the rescue and relief operations in the Philippines following Super Typhoon Haiyan (AFP Photo/Richard A. Brooks).

Aircraft carrier USS George Washington and its strike group sailed from Hong Kong to join the rescue and relief operations.

    • Currently, more than 400 U.S. personnel, both military and civilian are on the ground supporting Philippine relief efforts. Additionally, eight C MV-22B Ospreys, 12 KC-130 cargo aircraft, and six U.S. Navy ships (including the USS George Washington, with 21 helicopters) have deployed to support relief operations in the Philippines.

 

    • The Millennium Challenge Corporation(MCC) has been working hard to clear the road from Tacloban to Guian and soon will have this supply route open for usage.

 

In the days and weeks ahead, the United States will continue to work with our Philippine allies to deliver whatever help we can, as quickly as possible. Working alongside the Government of the Philippines and in coordination with the international community, we are working to ensure that Leyte and Samar will return!

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To donate to the relief effort online, you can choose among the Philippine Red Cross AppealAmerican Red Cross Typhoon AppealHabitat for Humanity Typhoon Rebuild AppealGlobalGiving Relief FundWorld Food Program USA Food Relief Effort, or UNICEF U.S. Fund (which is focused specifically on helping the 5 million children affected by the typhoon). There are many other organizations working on relief and recovery efforts on the ground in the Philippines, and InterAction provides a good list of who is doing what.

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My colleagues who attended tell me that the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF), hosted this year in Majuro by the Republic of the Marshall Islands, went very well. As I mentioned earlier this month, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell led a large, interagency American delegation composed of senior officials from the White House, our Pacific territories, the Coast Guard, USAID, and several of our Cabinet Departments including State, Energy, Defense, Agriculture, Interior, Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services.

Secretary Jewell greets Dan Larson of the State Department and members of the U.S. Delegation, as she arrives in Majuro for the Pacific Islands Forum Post-Forum Dialogue. Photo Credit: Lois Shelden

Secretary Jewell arrives in Majuro with our Ambassador to the PIF, my good friend Frankie Reed (in red).

This was Secretary Jewell’s first international trip since being confirmed by the Senate, and she came to work. Just as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did at last year’s PIF in Rarotonga, she participated fully in the Post-Forum Dialogue on regional issues and development assistance, conducted a series of bilateral meetings (including with New Zealand’s Prime Minister Key), and engaged with citizens and civil society groups. Overall, the U.S. delegation held dozens of meetings with island Heads of Government, other officials, and Pacific stakeholders.

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell at work at the 2013 PIF Post Forum Dialogue.

Secretary Jewell and Ambassador Armbruster at the PIF’s Post-Forum Dialogue.

The  conversations were robust and detailed, covering the full range of common interests and challenges that the United States and other Pacific nations share, including with respect to climate change, renewable energy, maintaining healthy oceans, environmental stewardship, disaster preparedness, health, sustainable economic development, fisheries management, education, support for civil society institutions, addressing gender inequality and trafficking in persons, and maritime security. Our delegation launched several new programs, announced more than US$ 30 million in new assistance in the region, and discussed the status of ongoing projects.

Group photo at the PFD.

The PIF leaders and Post-Forum Dialogue heads of delegation.

It is axiomatic that climate change is a defining challenge of our time and that many of our Pacific islands neighbors are especially vulnerable. Among other projects and commitments in this area that Secretary discussed at the PIF was the U.S. Agency for International Development’s launch of a new procurement of US$ 24 million for the Pacific American Climate Fund project to provide and monitor grants for climate change adaptation measures in the region.

Pacific Islands Forum opening ceremony.. the Jobwa Dancer's.

At the Pacific Islands Forum opening ceremony.

Separately, the United States will provide US$ 4.5 million over 5 years for a program called “Disaster Preparedness for Effective Response (PREPARE)” which is focused on strengthening disaster preparedness in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) and the Republic of the Marshall Islands.

Secretary Jewell presents a gift to the host of the Pacific Islands Forum meetings, President Loeak of the Republic of the Marshall islands. Photo Credit: Lois Shelden

Secretary Jewell presents a gift to President Loeak of the Republic of the Marshall islands.

The United States is also supporting the transition to renewable energy through several projects in the region, including the U.S.-Asia Pacific Comprehensive Energy Partnership.  Designed to drive trade and investment in private and public-private sector energy projects and to thereby facilitate progress on renewable and cleaner energy, this bundle of projects is backed by US$ 6 billion in concessionary financing from the Export-Import Bank of the United States and the United States’ Overseas Private Investment Corporation.

After attending a series of meetings, Secretary Jewell visited Rongelea Atoll moi fish farm, the prototype of an aquaculture project, funded in part by the Department of the Interior’s Office of Insular Areas. Photo Credit: Lois Shelden

Secretary Jewell visits Rongelea Atoll moi fish farm, the prototype for aquaculture projects funded in part by the Department of the Interior’s Office of Insular Areas.

The United States is also collaborating with fellow Pacific countries in other ways to protect the region’s unique natural resources. For example, the Micronesia Biosecurity Plan is a two-phased, US$ 3.8 million effort by the U.S. to evaluate invasive species risks and develop a regionally-vetted Biosecurity Plan. In addition, we are providing numerous grants to advance several Marine Protected Area (MPA) projects and to support education, training, and sustainable aquaculture economic initiatives throughout the Pacific region.

Secretary Jewell meets with President Mori of the Federated States of Micronesia. Photo Credit: Lois Shelden

Secretary Jewell with President Mori of the Federated States of Micronesia.

To advance the cause of women’s empowerment in the region, the State Department is expanding the Rarotonga Partnership for the Advancement of Pacific Island Women, launched by former Secretary Clinton at the 2012 PIF in collaboration with Australia, New Zealand, and other public and private partners. This year we have launched new projects in PNG to support women’s empowerment including the US$ 1.5 million Bougainville Women, Peace, and Security Incentive Fund.

We realize this is from a couple nights ago but like the smiles and the colorful dresses. Kommol tata!

Local Marshallese women observing the PIF.

To improve the health of Pacific Islanders, the United States is expanding our already extensive regional health partnerships to embrace a number of new initiatives. Included is a US$ 100,000 grant to the Secretariat of the Pacific Community to improve public health data processes to allow for better tracking of trends and for quicker response to outbreaks, as well as individual grants through our Embassies in the region (including Apia) to combat non-communicable diseases. We are also launching the mHealth Mobile Technologies Tobacco Control Initiative, which will use mobile phone technology to help American Samoans and Samoans quit smoking.

Secretary Jewell attends a bilateral meeting with President Remengesau of Palau. Photo Credit: Lois Shelden

Secretary Jewell with President Remengesau of Palau.

There are also a large number of sustainable economic development projects underway. For example, just in our Embassy in Apia we have awarded a half dozen significant grants intended to support the development of small and medium sized enterprises, spur development of new products using Samoa’s natural resources, and build entrepreneurial capacity. Many of our other Embassies in the region are doing likewise.

Secretary Jewell speaks with Prime Minister John Key of New Zealand after attending bilateral meetings with our Pacific partners. Photo Credit: Lois Shelden

Secretary Jewell with NZ Prime Minister Key at the PIF.

We also continue our long-standing modus operandi of launching region partnerships so that we can work collaboratively with like-minded friends on issues of common interest.

For example, the United States and New Zealand recently hosted a best-practices exchange forum called “Supporting Economic Empowerment and Development in the Caribbean and Pacific” (a.k.a., SEED CAP) in Jamaica.

SEED CAP brought together island representatives as well as scientific and business experts to discuss best practices and potential projects in the areas of food security, agriculture, and women’s economic empowerment.

Also, the United States and our Pacific islands partners have extended the South Pacific Tuna Treaty, which will deliver an additional US$ 40 million to the Pacific islands signatories and advance the cause of more effective and sustainable management of the region’s critical ocean resources.

With respect to peace and security issues, it is always difficult to talk about the United States contributions to maritime security in the Pacific because of the great scope of our ongoing investment and the huge number of individual projects and partners. From our shiprider agreements to meteorological and seismic monitoring, to interdiction activities to capacity-building and interoperability exercises such as Pacific Partnership and RIMPAC, to keeping sea lines open and safe, to responding to natural disasters and other humanitarian crises, there is too much ongoing investment to list, let alone describe.

After participating in the Post-Forum Dialogue, Secretary Jewell and members of the U.S. delegation attended bilateral meetings with some of our closest partners in the Pacific. Photo Credit: Lois Shelden

During one of the many working meetings around the Post-Forum Dialogue.

In terms of recent new initiatives, we have provided an additional US$ 1 million for unexploded ordnance clearance activities in 2013 across the Pacific region, and we have made a commitment to extend that important effort.

Also, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Federated States of Micronesia recently completed the inaugural Oceania Maritime Security Initiative patrol, an ongoing program intended to expand the opportunities for partner nations to work side-by-side with U.S. Coast Guard personnel and assets in support of more effective law enforcement and fisheries monitoring.

And of course, all of our Embassies in the region remain focused on supporting the next generation of Pacific leaders through a variety of education, training, and other capacity-building activities. If you browse the websites of our seven Embassies located in PIF member states, you’ll see just how great that commitment is.

You know from my prior posts about our work in that regard here at Embassies Wellington and Apia, includng our annual Connecting Young Leaders conferences, our new Future Leaders of the Pacific (FLP) conferences, and our emphasis on expanding exchange programs. Even though I was unable to attend the PIF myself this year, I was delighted that we were able to send three of our FLP youth as delegates – Joe Iosua of American Samoa, Mele O’Brien of the Solomon Islands, and Isabella Silk of the Marshall Islands.

U.S. and Niue delegates with some of the youth leaders.

Two of our Future Leaders, Joe (second from right) and Mele (far right), with other delegates at the PIF.

There are many hundreds of other programs and projects that I could describe, but I don’t want to stray too far from my original topic, the Pacific Islands Forum. Suffice it to say that America’s historical engagement in the Pacific continues unabated, at a magnitude and diversity virtually unquantifiable and certainly unparalleled.

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I spent several days in Apia last week presiding over a change in our Chargé d’Affaires there. Chad Berbert left us after two years of distinguished service, and Peter Ganser arrived to fill the position. To mark the occasion and celebrate our vibrant engagement with Samoa, I brought from New York City the Harlem Gospel Choir for a series of school, church, and public concerts to say goodbye to Chad and hello to Peter.

We’ll talk about Peter and the Choir later. Today I would like to share with you Chad’s farewell thoughts about his time in Apia. He reminisces warmly about how Samoa beguiled and impressed his family and him, and he makes excellent points about the large, ongoing American contribution to Samoa that is sometimes not recognized as coming from the United States because so much of our aid is provided and our work is accomplished collaboratively with or through others.

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Memories That Will Never Be Forgotten

by Chad Berbert

My how our time in Samoa has flown. I can’t believe it has been nearly two years. Coming to the end of one’s diplomatic tour is always a bit difficult, but Samoa in particular has grown on our family in ways that no other place has.

Our first family photo in Samoa taken at the U.S. Embassy residence in Vailima.

Our first family photo in Samoa taken at the U.S. Embassy Residence in Vailima.

I remember clearly my first day on the job visiting Fagalii Primary with U.S. percussionist Tom Teasley. Tom’s show was impressive and the students really enjoyed it. But what made an even bigger impression on me that day was the beautiful voices of the students as they sang their choir songs. Even at a young age they were in beautiful unison and they sang with a power that has stayed with me through my time in Samoa.

The experience was repeated with even greater force later that week when I visited Leulomoega Fou College and heard the 300+ students there sing. There was so much life, joy, and energy to their performance I couldn’t help but be moved. I’ll never forget those great first impressions of Samoa.

One of my first stops was Leulumoega Fou College with percussionist Tom Teasley .

One of my first events was a visit to Leulumoega Fou College with percussionist Tom Teasley.

The beauty of it is that Samoa has, true to form, lived up to those first impressions throughout our tour. People are as friendly and warm as the greetings we received when we first arrived and Samoa’s beautiful music served as a perfect window into the souls of the Samoan people that we would come to know throughout our tour.

I know for a fact that I will never forget the experiences and the memories that I have made here. I’m grateful to Samoa and its people for making such memories possible. I feel a true, inseparable tie to Samoa, the land of the Sacred Heart.

Samatau primary school students performing the haka for the crew of USS Waesche.

Samatau primary school students perform a haka for the crew of the USS Waesche.

I couldn’t have come to Samoa at a better time. Under the direction of President Obama, the United States has expanded engagement in the Pacific and I have had the opportunity to help guide that process here in Samoa. Working under the strategic, tenacious direction of Ambassador Huebner, during the past two years we at the U.S. Embassy have worked to build the U.S.-Samoa relationship in positive ways, helping both nations contribute to global peace and prosperity, and building connections that will benefit not only our countries but humanity more broadly.

Some of our achievements include building a new medical center which is scheduled to be completed in October, signing a U.S.-Samoa Shiprider Agreement, expanding visa interviews in Apia by 50%, and conducting medical clinics, health fairs, and health and education sector renovations via Pacific Partnership.

Prime Minister Tuilaepa and me (Chad) officially breaking ground for the U.S.-funded district medical center in Faleolo.

With Prime Minister Tuilaepa, officially breaking ground for the U.S.-funded district medical center in Faleolo.

Prime Minister Tuilaepa and I signing the Shiprider Agreement on the USS Chafee (with the Ka'imimoana in the background at right). Illegal fishing fleets, watch out.

Prime Minister Tuilaepa and Ambassador Huebner sign the Shiprider Agreement on the USS Chafee. Illegal fishing fleets, watch out.

We have supported expanded cooperation between American Samoa and Samoa as a means to help both Samoas in their economic development. Recent statistics indicate that with American Samoa and the rest of the U.S. combined, the United States is Samoa’s largest trading partner, a relationship that can and should be nourished.

One other key area where we have expanded our engagement with Samoa is on climate adaptation and disaster response. During my tenure USAID has engaged in no less than five climate oriented projects here in Samoa and that number is expected to grow. In addition, the United States was quick to provide emergency assistance following Cyclone Evan.

Chargé Chad Berbert and Cecilia Amosa (in red), Scientific Officer for the Samoa Climate Service, conduct a village assessment with Savaia resident Rev Kaisara Sisiga.

Conducting a village assessment with Samoa Climate Service Scientific Officer Cecilia Amosa (in red) and Savaia resident Rev. Kaisara Sisiga.

We’ve expanded cooperation in the education sector and are sending a new Samoan Fulbright scholar to the United States for post graduate study. In addition, we are bringing four U.S. Fulbright-Clinton Fellows to Samoa to work in government ministries here.

This increase in engagement is clear, evident, and — as you will see post my departure — sustained. And while many projects have over the years not been recognized as coming from the United States, our presence and engagement here is a continuation of sustained engagement that has occurred over years and even decades here in Samoa.

Take for instance the Peace Corps.  We have had Peace Corps volunteers in Samoa for over 40 years and we will have another new group of volunteers arriving in October. As I have mentioned before, the present day value of Peace Corps volunteer contributions over the 40-year period exceeds USD $100 million. And due to the immense contribution, the Samoan term Pisi Koa is now used as the generic term for volunteer.

Our new arrivals (from left): Lou Chen, Teuila Pati, Mildred Andrews, Bradley Boelman, Angelina Velarde, Allyson Miller, my Chargé Chad Berbert, Michelle Paul, PC director Dale Withington, Rebecca Haas, Kate Brolley, Allyson Fraser, Kiri Center, Madisen Rhodes, Joshua Fraser, Zach Wegner, and Karen Acree.

Our most recent arrivals (from left): Lou Chen, Teuila Pati, Mildred Andrews, Bradley Boelman, Angelina Velarde, Allyson Miller, me (Chad), Michelle Paul, former PC director Dale Withington, Rebecca Haas, Kate Brolley, Allyson Fraser, Kiri Center, Madisen Rhodes, Joshua Fraser, Zach Wegner, and Karen Acree.

Similar contributions that are not always recognized as coming from the United States but which involve substantial U.S. technological and monetary contributions include initiatives such as the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center and the South Pacific Tuna Treaty.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, largely U.S. Government funded, provides critical tsunami warning information for Samoa and other nations around the Pacific. Establishing such a network requires extensive upfront investment and continued maintenance, an effort that we have supported from the beginning and which we are committed to continuing to support.

As for the Tuna Treaty, over the past 30 years it has brought millions of dollars to Samoa via economic support funds, and that is in addition to the money paid for the tuna itself. The treaty has also provided thousands of jobs for Samoans in the American Samoa tuna canneries, an important source of additional economic support here in Samoa. And even more importantly, with the renewing of the treaty Samoa is set to gain substantially greater economic and other benefits.

Delivering supplies to the SVSG Children’s House of Hope.

Delivering supplies to the SVSG Children’s House of Hope.

Perhaps the largest U.S. contribution to Samoa has been through a completely separate conduit, one that is typically not associated with the United States but which indeed involves substantial U.S. funding and commitment. That is through multi-lateral institutions. We simply don’t engrave our name on everything we do.

Following World War II the United States made an unprecedented move to fund and support the largest aid coordination and global security support organization the world had ever seen, the United Nations. Throughout its life the United States has remained the largest financial supporter of the United Nations.

In 2013 the United States will provide 22% of the UN’s core budget. That is the most of any nation, more than twice that of the second largest funder Japan, three times the amount of Germany, and approximately four times the contributions provided by France, the United Kingdom, China, or Italy.

Presentation of findings an Embassy-initiated UNDP project on enhancing the resilience of the tourism sector to climate change risks.

Presentation of findings from a UNDP project on enhancing the resilience of Samoa’s tourism sector to climate change risks.

Just in the most recent year for which I was able to access data, the United States’ total assessed and voluntary contributions to the United Nations and its various subordinate agencies – including the UN Development Program (UNDP), the World Health Organization (WHO), the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), and others — exceeded USD $7 billion.

More than US$ 40 million in American development support money has come to Samoa through the United Nations in the past year. (The U.S.-origin of the money does not disappear just because we sent it through the U.N.) And that is just United Nations projects, it does not include the enormous U.S. funding to the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the International Monetary Fund, or other multilateral institutions of which the United States is also a member.

From left to right: ACEO of Aid Coordination Noumea Simi, Embassy Chargé Chad Berbert, CEO of the Ministry of Finance Tupa’imatuna Iulai Lavea, Director Dennis Wendel, and ACEO of the Ministry of Finance Henry Ah Ching.

After discussing aid and climate change projects with (from left) Aid Coordination ACEO Noumea Simi, Ministry of Finance CEO Tupa’imatuna Iulai Lavea, USAID Director Dennis Wendel, and Ministry of Finance ACEO Henry Ah Ching.

On the environment front, in the past three years the United States provided USD $7.5 billion to aid in climate change assistance. Much of this money has been contributed through the Global Environment Facility (GEF) to which Samoa has access. One such project that has been funded via GEF is a USD $25 million Pilot Project for Climate Resilience.

The United States is the largest funder of these multilateral institutions and as such has always played a significant role in the development of Samoa. These institutions have been playing a role in Samoa for years and U.S. support, while not obviously identified, has been critical to that effort. For instance the World Bank has been significantly engaged in providing money for infrastructure development and health sector support.  And that is just recent money.

Serving as a torch bearer for the national march to end violence against women.

Serving as a torch bearer for the national march to end violence against women.

Which all proves a key point — the United States remains Samoa’s closest geographic neighbor and a true and constant friend. We have one of the largest Samoan diaspora populations in the world, and Americans remain major business, private, and philanthropic contributors to Samoa in addition to the institutional and government funding mentioned above.

These honest and heartfelt connections to this, the land of the Sacred Heart, are deep, strong, and long standing. They arise from personal rather than transactional impulses. They stem from a desire to give and to build and to support Samoa like family.

My sons Lincoln and Isaac and I help with painting work at the National Council of Churches offices.

My sons Lincoln and Isaac and I help paint the National Council of Churches offices.

Navy optometrist with one of the Little Sisters of the Poor during an eye clinic.

U.S. Navy optometrist with one of the Little Sisters of the Poor during an eye clinic we conducted earlier this year.

Pictured here with deaf students from Senese School who travelled to Washington to take part in the U.S. Government funded Sports United Program.

With deaf students from Senese School who traveled to Washington to take part in one of our Sports United exchange programs.

At the Easter Egg Hunt that we hold at the Residence each year for village children.

At the Easter Egg Hunt that we hold at the Residence each year for village children.

Visiting a local school.

I loved visiting local schools.

Which brings me back to where I started. My family and I have loved our experiences, our associations, and the culture and beauty of Samoa. It is a place that we will never forget. It has been a privilege to be here and a privilege to help develop the U.S.-Samoa relationship to be perhaps the strongest it has ever been.

It is now hard to say goodbye, but rest assured neither I nor my family will ever forget Samoa. More importantly, neither will the United States. We are tied at the heart.

CJB

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Chad and his family were superb representatives of the United States of America, and they will be greatly missed. We wish them well in their future endeavors, and I look forward to seeing them back in Samoa on holiday sometime soon.