Lending a helping hand – A stall owner’s story

By Vatapuia Maiava ,

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SAD TIMES: Ua’i Fanene (far right) in her empty restaurant stall with family members Lauren Avapalu and Lisa Fanene.

SAD TIMES: Ua’i Fanene (far right) in her empty restaurant stall with family members Lauren Avapalu and Lisa Fanene.

The fire which destroyed the Savalalo Market on Saturday has left many small business owners hearts broken. Ua’i Fanene from the village of Lauli’i sobbed as she told the Samoa Observer her story. 

“This market had so much purpose for us. That is why it’s so hard for my family and I to come to terms with this incident,” Ms. Fanene said.

“I have been coming to this market to earn money ever since I was 10 years old, my family started off with a plantation then we opened a small little restaurant stall and a small handicraft stall in the market and that has been in my family for so many years.”

Ms. Fanene lost her handicraft stall in the flames but her restaurant stall still stands in a small building right next to the area that went up in flames. 

“I was at choir practice when one of my family members called to tell me the bad news but I turned off my phone because I was in the church at the time,” she said. 

“Not long after my cousin ran over with another phone telling me that my husband was trying to reach me to inform me that the market has burnt down; so I jumped in the car and rushed down.”

“I got to the market and saw my restaurant stall still there and all the goods and my fridge outside; people from my village who were at the scene broke down the door (restaurant stall door) and brought everything outside to try save them. 

“Taxi drivers and people who are my usual customers came and helped bring everything I owned out of my restaurant and lined them neatly outside and asked the security guard at the Development Bank of Samoa (D.B.S) to look after it all.” 

“I am so very grateful for people like that. When I got home I noticed that nothing was stolen while everything was being brought outside, all my goods were still there.”

Amidst the devastation, Ms. Fanene said she is happy to be in a country where people risk their lives to help others without reward. 

“Many of my friends from the market lost so many things and there was nothing that could be done about it because the fire moved so fast. I had a stall in there too and now it’s gone. 

“There really isn’t anything anyone could have done because fire is fire and if we tried to save anything then we risk getting hurt.

“I already mentioned that I have been coming here ever since I was 10 years old and I have grown up with all these stall owners, we are all a family here and this is my home. 

“All I am left with now is just a memory of something that was a huge part of my life,” Ms. Fanene said as she fought back more tears while reminiscing.

“I’m just very glad that the fire happened when most of the people went home. The fire consumed everything so fast because most if not all the goods were flammable so the fire swept over it all very quickly. I feel so sorry for some shops in the market because they lost absolutely everything.”

As for the future, Ms. Fanene is unsure.

 “Whether we continue to run our restaurant stall in this area heavily depends on the government,” she said. “If they want to relocate us then we will have to move because our restaurant wasn’t affected by the fire. 

“The government has always been talking about renovating this area and all of a sudden this fire comes and destroys everything. I’m just very happy with the people who was concerned with my shop and tried to move everything in case the fire spread to this area as well.”

© Samoa Observer 2016

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