Richmond Samoans aid tsunami survivors
on October 23, 2009
Following the Sept. 29 tsunami, members of Richmond’s Methodist Church of Samoa united with other Samoans in the Bay Area to collect material aid and send it to their homeland. The youth of the church spent two weeks packing clothes, food and toiletries into boxes. The congregation sent two shipments totaling 160 boxes to Apia, the capitol of Samoa. “That’s where it’s most needed,” said Reverend Ioane Taeao Tauanuu II.
Rev Tauanuu joined 20 other Bay Area Samoan church leaders to coordinate relief efforts and prayer services following the tsunami. “We didn’t know there was that many people interested in helping,” said Rev Tauanuu.
Both compassion and altruism are essential in Samoan culture, according to Rev Tauanuu. Members of the church impart Samoan culture and language to the U.S.-born young people of the congregation. The youth group delivers sack lunches to homeless people throughout the area. Next month they will serve a meal at the soup kitchen across 23rd street from the church.
The John Wesley Parish started in Richmond in the early 1900s, when seven families met in a garage on Sundays to worship in Samoan. They came with the first wave of Samoans to immigrate to the Bay Area following the establishment of American Samoa as a U.S. colony. The church’s founders chose to live in Richmond because the housing was affordable. “And I heard they liked the breeze from the sea,” said Rev Tauanuu. In the early 1990s the church was able to buy a large complex on Espee Avenue next to the train tracks.
There are only 145 Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders in Richmond, according to recent Census Bureau estimates. Reverend Tauanuu and his family have been in Richmond since 2007, but he said his birthplace remains in his heart. The church coalition is now organizing long-term support for people in Samoa. People who want to contribute to the church’s relief efforts can call (510) 237-2057.
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