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UNIVERSITY OF HAWAI‘I TO ASSIST AMERICAN SAMOA Disaster recovery projects run out of business school

By Fili Sagapolutele PAGO PAGO, American Samoa, (Samoa News, Jan. 5, 2010) - University of Hawai΄i teams are being recruited for disaster recovery projects in American Samoa and will be deployed to the territory next month, as part of the UH School of Business partnership with the territorial government under a memorandum of understanding.

The Governor’s Authorized Representative (GAR) Evelyn Vaitautolu Langford and the Territorial Office of Fiscal Reform (TOFR) are working with Papali’i Dr. Failautusi Avegalio, who heads the UH Pacific Business Center Program (PBCP), in a partnership utilizing UH expertise and its graduates. (See Wednesday, 12/30/09 edition for part one of this story).

PBCP says UH teams are being recruited for disaster recovery projects in American Samoa which is part of the MOU and the partnership between the two parties.

Responding to several Samoa News questions two weeks ago, Papali’i said on Tuesday last week that in the latter part of January a team from the UH National Disaster Preparedness and Training Center (NDPTC) will be deployed to American Samoa to assess and make recommendations with respect to American Samoa’s "long term preparedness training and local capacity building needs."

"A core interest will be focus groups from village leaders and members, first responders who served in the field," as well as those various administrators, medical, military and public works personnel who assisted in the field, Papali’i explained via e-mail from Honolulu.

The first several phases of interviews, surveys and focus groups is to be conducted and led by Professor Dolores Foley, according to Papali’i.

"As part of this assessment, the team from the NDPTC will determine the feasibility of a satellite Disaster Preparedness Training Center at the American Samoa Community College (ASCC) where professional certification and degree program in disaster preparedness and management could be offered," he said.

Papali’i also said that a team of UH School of Architecture (SOA) professors is being recruited to assess the structural integrity of those buildings determined by the ASG to possess national significance -- such as the more than century old Congregational Christian Church of American Samoa (CCCAS) in Leone, site of the landing of the first LMS missionaries -- to determine the extent of the damage caused by the recent earthquake and/or tsunami.

This team will include the first PhD student candidate of Samoan ancestry in the School of Architecture, he said.

UH’s primary role is to provide technical and professional support to the GAR to assist and support local government in specific grants management processes and general disaster recovery support needs in the two phases of the MOU, said Papali’i.

He observed that the University views its role as a resource to help facilitate and support local staff to manage the technical side of the process to meet specific federal grant deliverables, such as "having an accounting and disaster recovery report that is in compliance with federal rules and regulations... "

According to information provided to Samoa News, the PBCP says graduate students -- Samoan graduate students in particular -- are being identified for recruitment in specific areas such as engineering, urban and regional planning, disaster preparedness, social work, business management and accounting, IT and architecture to assist professors during specific on-site deployments.

These students will be limited to support roles only and will be under the supervision of designated local authorities in addition to the supervision provided by the professors leading the project, it says.

In cooperation with ASCC, undergraduate students will be recruited from students majoring or concentrating in specific academic and career paths associated with the technical fields represented by the University of Hawaii project teams to American Samoa, according to PBCP.

PBCP also provided background information for the first phase assessment team, David Gillespie, Dr. CL Cheshire and Byron Apo.

Gillespie, a national award winning senior business development manager with expertise in finance, accounting and reporting, has conducted a preliminary assessment of how the University can position its project management and financial management resources to meet the support needs of the GAR.

He worked closely with Utu Abe Malae when he first assumed his role as President for the Development Bank of American Samoa. Utu complimented Gillespies’ work at that time.

Dr. Cheshire, federal grants, project development and management expert stayed for two weeks to work with the Human Resource Management Department to assist with the grants process, management and deliverables for FEMA and related grants to assist with the recovery efforts.

Cheshire is also a multiple National Project of the Year awardee whose experience in the Pacific region includes all of the US Territories over a 20 year period.

Apo, former banking official, grants accounting manager for community and block grants for the City and County of Hawaii that included the Samoan Service Provided Association in Hawaii, is also an adjunct professor of accounting. Byron followed up after Gillespies’ assessment and worked primarily with TOFR.

"Of local interest is an independent research project at the SOA (UH School of Architecture) reviewing the materials used in the construction of traditional fales to determine if there are alternative, economically feasible synthetic materials that could be used that would withstand the destructive forces of tsunamis and earthquakes better than those materials currently being used," said Papali’i.

"This project will take into account the aesthetics and traditions associated with current design and materials as well as their ability to withstand the destructive effects of a tsunami and an earthquake," he explained. "Size would range from a faleo’o to a fale afolau. The design and materials analysis will rely upon the latest computer aided design (CAD) technology."

"For those villages and families preferring a traditional dwelling or replacement of one destroyed, this project provides an alternative to imported designs," Papali’i noted.

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