Social advocate, business owner and entrepreneur.
That’s Moe Lei Sam for you. She is outspoken person who often finds herself in the line of fire for her views on the issues confronting Samoa.
Even in her old age, she stands fearlessly with her head held high and speaks the truth that everyone knows but too afraid to speak out.
Mrs. Lei Sam is married to Pasefika Taavao and they have four children. They have been married for 20 years.
Many people think they know Mrs. Lei Sam but no one actually knows her.
They don’t know her struggles, upbringing and passion for being the guardian of truth as is uncovered when Mrs. Lei Sam recounts her story to the Samoa Observer.
Mrs. Lei Sam’s story is a classic one of rags to riches and of course encountering countless obstacles along the way.
But all this has ultimately made her the successful businesswoman she is today.
Mrs. Lei Sam hails from the village of Falelasiu. She is one of 15 children of the late Ah Samu and Seeseei Lei Sam. She credits much of her success to her late father who laid the groundwork for his kids to have a better life through back breaking work.
“He was a hard working Chinaman and thank you for him. Without my father, we won’t be like this,” she said.
“We were the slaves in those days. We worked for palagi. Koko, plantation, coconuts, all of it. My dad was one of the Chinese workers for palagi in those days. And I was there. They used to have a big house where they would roast the koko and I was among the children who collected all the koko beans that fell from the table to use to cook our food.”
Life was hard, Ms. Lei Sam recalled.
“We didn’t start off smoothly. We were slaves in those days.”
Mrs. Lei Sam witnessed first hand the cruelty her dad had to endure to support his kids. Her and her siblings often helped their father shoulder the burden of caring for the family and in return learned hard lessons about life.
Her father worked tirelessly until he saved up enough to purchase land and thus the Lei Sam business venture was born.
The land her father bought is now the current location of Lei Sam’s Variety Shop, which Ms. Lei Sam proudly runs several businesses out of.
“At age of 18, I left for New Zealand but I came back and two years later he died and that’s when I took over. Not only me, it was his children’s company. I’m the one looking after it now and my younger brother.”
“It’s not easy, maybe in the days where there wasn’t many shops. With us local shops, we were comfortable doing business. But now, with so many Chinese shops you can never compete with them. We’re not selling rubbish of course because I get most of my stuff from Fiji and Indian shops and wholesales and all that stuff.”
“Its not the same anymore. It was hard work.”
Not only is Mrs. Lei Sam is a business owner, she has become a fierce advocate for social issues that plague Samoa. She is a pillar in the community and has garnered many friends and foes.
Although she consistently speaks out against her family’s wishes, she speaks from the heart, because if she doesn’t do it, who will?
Mrs. Lei Sam recalls that many of the issues that plague Samoa have affected her personally.
Much like the time she called out the hospital for its egregious facilities. That fateful night in the hospital when the roof was leaking on her feet, she thought, “Why is it leaking on my feet? Why not someone else? Then I thought, is it a message?”
This prompted her to speak out about the issues concerning the hospital and sparked a national conversation.
She often finds herself in the line of fire for speaking about issues that she has experienced first hand. This is what fuels her courage to stand up and speak out. When she sees something that needs fixing, she doesn’t want to wait for anyone to fix it.
Her favourite quote is from Mahatma Ghandi.
“Be the change you want to see in the world.”