Community effort needed to tackle child vendor problem

By Lanuola Tupufia – Ah Tong ,

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PROBLEM IS NOT NEW: This photo of a child vendor sleeping at the McDonald’s Restaurant’s drive thru last year created quite a stir.

PROBLEM IS NOT NEW: This photo of a child vendor sleeping at the McDonald’s Restaurant’s drive thru last year created quite a stir.

Businesswoman, Moe Lei Sam, is calling on the community to work together to address the issue of the growing number of young children roaming the streets of Apia late at night. 

Disappointed about what is happening, Ms. Lei Sam said the problem isn’t one that involves the parents of the children alone. 

“They are our children, the future of our country,” she told the Samoa Observer yesterday. 

“I see the M.P. talking about urgent action to address it but let me just say that the problem isn’t new and we have been singing about it. The government had been ignoring their plight and turning a blind eye to the young kids. 

“The issue is bigger than anyone knows and to address it everyone plays a part in fixing it.”

The mother shared her view after she saw the front page story on Wednesday with headline, Street vendors or future convicts?

Ms. Lei Sam pointed out that if the three young children that beat up the homeless man was not captured on CCTV and exposed the government would have maintained that nothing is wrong. 

“The Prime Minister should be the first person to look at this problem,” she suggested. 

“He is the leader and the father of the nation but he does not talk about this kind of issue. I don’t know if he doesn’t know it or he is also turning a blind eye to it.”

Ms. Lei Sam said it’s near back to school season and the future of the young vendors is uncertain. 

She had also done her part with hope to address the issue. 

Ms. Lei Sam said she was part of a radio programme hosted by Rev. Falefatu Enari to raise awareness about the street vendors problem. 

She explained the show talked about encouraging parents of the children to meet with guest speakers like pastors and others that can help to discuss their issues.  

“It’s sad what we are seeing in Samoa because we don’t want to see young children out selling goods late at night,” she said. 

“The radio show was to encourage discussion and conversation around the issue for everyone to help in their own way to address the problem. We appealed for a space to allow the parents to meet up and asked for guest speakers that can talk to the parents what the real problem is because they are not hungry its something else. But sadly no one offered to be guest speakers and society is turning a blind eye to this.”

Ms. Lei Sam said she had offered to talk with parents about the issue at her own store at Saleufi and plays her part by feeding young vendors who come to her store. 

According to the mother when she asked the parents what the problem was that they had to send out their young children late at night they did not respond.

“They just looked at me and didn’t say anything,” she recalled. 

“I wanted to help them but it was like their lips were sealed they just did not say anything.”

She pointed out that every morning when she opens the store the vendors are waiting outside her door. 

“There was a new girl from the other children that I use to see this morning,” she said. 

“She was only 8 years old and I looked at her with a heavy heart. How could her parents let her do this? My main concern is the parents and they really need to stop sending the children out.”

 “I look outside and think to myself what kind of future are we heading to?” she asked. 

Just outside Ms. Lei Sam’s store the 8 year old, Folole Taoipu was sitting there with her goods yesterday morning. 

The young girl targets customers going up to Georgie’s Pizza to sell her small items. 

She said it was her first time out selling on the streets because she was asked by her parents to do so. 

“My other siblings sell on the other areas and this is my spot,” she said. 

“We go home around 1am…I meet up with my siblings infront of Mc Donald’s where my parents would collect us to go home.” 

The young girl added she didn’t want to be on the street but she had to listen to her mother. 

© Samoa Observer 2016

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