Posted by: monsonmadness | December 22, 2012

2nd annual service project

Here is the story of this year’s Christmas service project.

We had more donations than last year. This year we brought in $3,000. Thanks to all for being so generous.

When I decided to do the project again this year, I had no idea what would happen in my life in such a short time. I didn’t know that I would be on bed rest or that we would be juggling an international move in only three weeks, as well as trying to sell all of our possessions and make arrangements for life back in Utah! It made things quite a bit more difficult for me, but with a few adjustments and some help from some great friends, we were able to cope! I hope that you will be happy with the decisions that I made and how I spent your money.

Last year we made up twenty baskets, two each for ten families. One basket had food, and the other had non food items in it. This year a friend suggested that since we had more money, I just do more families. The thought stressed me out! It has been a really difficult process since I can’t even lift anything and my kids have been doing the majority of the work, so I thought it would be better to just buy more things to put in the baskets.

Then hurricane Evan hit. Although in American Samoa we narrowly missed the damage, death and destruction that came from Evan, unfortunately our neighbors, friends and family members over in Western Samoa were not so fortunate.

The hurricane collapsed houses and tourist facilities, washed away roads and bridges, and damaged crops and water and electricity infrastructure. Four people died, and ten are still missing. More than 8,000 people are living in shelters, and there is a huge demand for drinking water, food, linens, and clothing. They are estimating the recovery costs to be at least $300 million. The same hurricane moved onto Fiji, the biggest they’ve seen in over 20 years with winds topping 125 mph. Whole villages were flattened, more than 14,000 people are in shelters there with the same needs and so many people are still unaccounted for.

I decided that I would split the $3,000 into three categories of $1,000 each. I would do the same as last year in making ten baskets of food, and ten baskets of non-food, each costing $1,000, and then I sent $1,000 to Western Samoa for food and water for the Samoans who are in such great need of it at this time.

I have included some photos of the devastation in Samoa so that you can see the extent of the damage and how badly they need supplies, and a photo of the water that your money bought that got shipped over to Samoa on the 26th.

Here in American Samoa I got busy. First, I bought 20 laundry baskets! Then, my good and patient friend came with us on two huge shopping sprees. The first one was to buy all of the non-food items. We had 5 shopping carts altogether and the kids were great helpers. We bought things like soap, shampoo, toothbrushes, toothpaste, sanitary products, pain killers and medications, first aid supplies, all purpose cleaner, dish detergent, sponges, foil, garbage bags, toilet cleaner and brushes, dish towels, toilet paper, tissues, laundry detergent, baby clothes, baby shampoo, wipes, rattles, coloring books, crayons, pencils, pens, erasers, alphabet blocks, bubbles, toy cars, dolls, beach toys and a yo-yo!

We assembled those ten baskets, rested for a couple of days and then went out to the next store to buy food! This time we filled 9 carts with basics such as rice, noodles, milk, instant potatoes, canned fruits and vegetables, oil, and soup, then added loads more items like tuna, spam, chili, stuffing, nuts, raisins, brownie and cake mixes, frosting, jello, crackers, peanut butter, jelly, pancake mix, syrup, and juice. On the top of the basket we put the treats like candy, marshmallows, pretzels, popcorn and oreos. We filled two mini vans, drove home and assembled the baskets. The kids had a blast putting them together while I dictated things from the couch with my feet up trying to catch my breath!

Lastly, another great friend came and “helped” me wrap all the baskets. Really this means that she wrapped all the baskets while I looked on pathetically and added the ribbons. It was really frustrating to not be able to do more, but I was so glad for her service in getting everything ready. There was no way this project would have happened this year if my awesome friends hadn’t helped.

Next was delivery day. Let’s just say that there were many obstacles in the way, but since this was way more important than anything else, somehow it all worked out.

Deliveries were similar to last year. Very poor homes and very grateful people. Again, the poverty depresses and saddens me and I hope I never forget the images that we saw today. We sang “We wish you a merry Christmas” in Samoan at each house. Most families gave us hugs and kisses. One tried to give us something in return…Some asked, “Is this free?” others, “Is it ALL for us?”. Mostly they just thanked us profusely, wished us a Merry Christmas and then ran excitedly to the baskets to see what was inside!

I love the photo of Mary hugging a special needs Samoan girl. The girl was so happy to have the extra attention, and it was sweet to see the innocent love and instant friendship between the two children.

My favorite stop was an old plywood house with boarded windows and green tarps. Only the women were home, but they must have a really full house when all the men are there. There was the mother, two daughters who each had a baby in their arms, three other small children, and then the old grandmother whose brown wrinkly face made me smile. Four generations of women living under one “roof” and so grateful to be receiving our Christmas baskets. I really wanted to take a picture of them, but it just doesn’t feel appropriate to do.

I know that my write up this year is more matter of fact and less emotional. I apologize. I do feel drained, both physically and emotionally. All I can say is that I am so grateful to all of you who sacrificed something in your own life and made it a priority to make a donation to the Samoan people. With all of the important things that I could have been doing this week, there is nothing that I wanted to do more than this project. This is what I want to be doing during our last few weeks here. Giving to the people who have so little, and who can’t even comprehend the luxuries that the rest of us live with.

Of all the many lessons that I have learned living in American Samoa, one of the most important is to give up petty attachments to worldly possessions. Those things really do not matter. Christmas is about love. It is about the love that was shown by a loving God who sent his precious Son to earth as a small baby, and it is about trying to be more like the person that this small baby grew up to be. He loved, he served, he gave willingly and never expected anything in return. I hope that during this Christmas season you will look at the photos from this project and be proud of yourselves for giving unselfishly, for that is the true spirit of Christmas.


  1. Very touching.

  2. Bless you Helen! You are an angel! Thank you for letting us help in this project again. What a wonderful experience for you and your family. Your children have learned what everyone should learn in their lives, to give to those less fortunate. We truly are the ones who have been blessed by being able to give, and I am so sorry to see all the destruction from the storm. Take Care and rest! Sharon 🙂

  3. It was heartwarming to read of the hard work and resulting joy as you delivered the baskets. It was heart wrenching to read and see the devastation and the needs. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to help. Bless you, Helen for your humanity. Look after yourself and keep following the star for you are a wise woman. God bless and Happy Christmas to all of you. Christine and Alan Price

  4. Thank you! I love your idea for the baskets and to send money to Western Samoa. You have touched many lives there and I know you and your family will be missed. Merry Christmas and please take care. Good luck with the move!

  5. Thank you Helen for everything you have done. xx

  6. Awesome, Helen!

  7. hooray for helen! good work, again, lady. i love comparing the picture of mary frowning before delivering and smiling while delivering. thanks for sharing.

  8. Wonderful! Thank you for letting us help in something so great. I appreciate your efforts, and hope you really didn’t out do yourself!! Thank you for your example and friendship! Merry Christmas! YOU TAKE CARE!

  9. Your family really catches the true meaning of Christmas–what a gift you are to the Samoans.

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