The driving force behind the Matualeoo Environment Trust (M.E.T.I.), Dr. Walter Vermeulen, has become a Sir.
The Executive Director was awarded the Order of Leopold from the King of Belgium on Wednesday night at the Taumeasina Island Resort.
The Order of Leopold is an award instituted by the first King of Belgium, King Leopold in the 19th Century.
It is usually bestowed upon individuals deemed by the Belgian State to have given exemplary service to the community in which they live.
And for Sir Walter, the Belgian State has seen fit for knighthood his service to Samoa and its people since 1969.
“It is an honour to be bestowed this high Belgian award, which came as a surprise. At the same time, I feel happy for receiving this award,” Sir Walter told the Samoa Observer.
“It feels good to know that my birth country recognizes the work I have been doing all these years in Samoa.
“I first came to Samoa in 1967 at the invitation of Dr. Charles Judd from Hawaii, who was then a surgical consultant to the Samoan government.
“He arranged with the then Director of Health, Dr. J.C. Thieme that I should replace him when he returns to Hawaii after completing his consultancy. I was then contracted as the Surgeon Specialist from June 1969.”
Sir Walter attributes his achievement to his late wife, Matatumua Maimoaga.
“The achievements that are mentioned why I was given this award – in the medical and community development fields - could not have been possible without the constant support and encouragement of my late wife and the dedicated service of the staff of M.E.T.I, with whom I have worked for the past 18 years as the Executive Director.
“Receiving this award gives me the additional resolve to keep working for M.E.T.I. to promote the Whole Food, Plant Based nutrition programme to prevent or reverse the various non-communicable diseases and to help grassroots communities to become resilient in the face of predicted climate change extreme events.”
Sir Walter and M.E.T.I. provide a weekly Health column on the benefits of whole food plant based diet for the Samoa Observer.