A picture of the truth

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

They say a photo tells a story. Others say a photo is worth a thousand words.

Two days away from this year’s White Sunday, the photo on the front page of your newspaper yesterday accompanied by the headline “This broke my heart” does both. 

Not only does it speak a thousand words, it tells a story many of us would rather ignore. The reaction is understandable. After all, out of sight out of mind, some would say. 

Besides, don’t we live in a country where our leaders simply refuse to acknowledge these truths? Is this not paradise where everything is fine and dandy that we should just continue to be merry and forget what is really happening?

Ignorance can only take us so far.

And then you have moments like this where a photo that’s so powerful is there and we cannot ignore it. 

Who wouldn’t be affected by it? 

Who wouldn’t be outraged by such an image?

If you are a proud Samoan, you would be embarrassed. I am too. 

But this is the truth and the truth will always hurt. That boy’s photo is the truth staring at us unblinkingly. 

This kid’s photo has got to hurt us as a community. It has got to strike a painful nerve with people who have the ability to make changes so that the life of that little boy would be changed for the better.

For the uninitiated, the photo in question was taken by a concerned member of the public who did not want to be identified.

 “It was getting late at night and we drove into McDonald’s for a feed when I saw this kid slouching, fast asleep inches from the drive thru,” he said.

“I swear he could’ve been killed, especially given the number of drunk drivers who go through the Maccas drive thru at night. He was fast asleep, looked so out of it while still holding on to the stuff he was instructed to sell.”

What upset him even more was the fact that there were so many other vehicles and no one seemed to care. 

“It was just so sad. This is not normal.”

Indeed, has this community become so cold we no longer care? Do we think that such images are normal? 

To the photographer’s credit, he woke up the boy, bought him some food and told him to go home. 

At this point, we want to acknowledge the person who sent us the photo. Thank you for caring enough to wake up this boy who could have been killed if he had fallen onto the path of cars. Thank you for showing that there are still many compassionate people in this country when you bought him some food. And thank you for being willing to share such a powerful image – one that should enhance the discussion about what can be done to stop these poor kids being abused by their parents who send them out as vendors to make money.

You see, over the years, the McDonald’s drive thru area has become a very popular spot for child vendors and beggars. Many of them will spend days and nights there, trying to sell different goods. 

Some of them have been the subject of beatings at the hands of drunks and adults who don’t appreciate being hassled. But it’s not the only place. Outside the nightclubs, many young boys and girls this age are there. They are harassed and assaulted while they try to sell goods to drunken night revelers. It’s only a matter of time before a child is killed. 

We hope that doesn’t happen.

In the meantime, in our search for answers, there are obvious questions that come to mind.

Where are the parents?  What is the government doing about this? Where are the law enforcers? 

How did this child end up like this? Where is the church? And what can we do as a country to stop this from happening?

These are great questions and the answers will go a long way to help us formulate a solution. But there has got to be more we can do. 

We believe that as a country, we’ve been asking these questions for far too long now and we’re not going anywhere. It is time we do more than just pay lip service to the plight of these children. 

Every one has a role to play. The government, churches, villages and everyone must come together to work on a solution sooner rather than later.

Everyone’s opinion counts. And the more hands make the work lighter. 

On page 2 of today’s newspaper, young Quenjule Slaven has shown us one way the issue can be tackled. Great on her. We should follow her example.

These children are part of a society we all belong to. We have a responsibility to help them. 

The government especially should feel duty bound to do something about them because we know if this is not addressed now, these children will only grow up to pose more problems for us in the future.

That’s why it is imperative we act now. How can you and I help?

Don’t abuse these kids when they hassle you.  They are desperate. They need love, not more insults. 

What do you think?Write and share your thoughts with us!

Have a fabulous Friday Samoa, God bless!

© Samoa Observer 2016

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