Wisdom of elders drawn upon in times of disasters

By Elizabeth Ah-Hi ,

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WISDOM: Fusi Vatonipeni has seen it all in her lifetime but is forever faithful that Samoa will remain resilient.

WISDOM: Fusi Vatonipeni has seen it all in her lifetime but is forever faithful that Samoa will remain resilient. (Photo: Elizabeth Ah-Hi)

In times of disasters, we look out for the most vulnerable in our society, the elderly and the children. 

However while able-bodied people mobilize quickly to respond and do the hard yards, it is perhaps our elders that give us that determination to persevere. 

Fusi Vatonipeni of Safotu is one those special people and she was in high spirits despite a swollen ankle after a busy week of cleaning after the cyclone which had left her unable to move around that day,

“Today my foot is swollen all of a sudden, but you know what?” she said. “I can still do my washing out of this bucket, so you see -you can still do chores while sitting down.”

Fusi is the matriarch of her family and she had nothing but words of thanksgiving that her family and her village were kept safe during last weeks cyclone.

“We are so fortunate that there was not much damage to our living areas, it was just the rooftops of our fales that blew off but we have finished picking them up and clearing the land.”

“It was not so much the rain but the strong gusts of winds that were coming from every direction that was worrying. It’s true that we have some damage but there are other families here especially by the water that were worse off.”

Even though her village is in the area which took the brunt of the cylone, Fusi believes that the unity of their village empowers them all to endure times of crisis,

“Luckily by the time the cyclone arrived, thank God we had just finished building our house which everyone stayed in during the strong winds. “Our power is back on and when our water was shut off, we were still able to get water from Safe’e which we were able to wash and also use for drinking. That’s why Safotu is good because even when the bad days hit, we will still be ok because we work together and help each other out.”

“In Savaii, the people move - we move and work to protect our families, we don’t stay standing around. We just finished having our village meeting to encourage our families to stay strong at this time. In times like this, we come together, the families and all the churches and stay positive. It’s the thing of our Samoan people that we do whatever it takes to protect and support each other.”

When asked about the lack of jobs in Savaii, Fusi maintained that where there is a will there is a way,

“I think that there are jobs available close by here at the resorts and hotels in Manase and Fagamalo if you have to go to Apia to get a job – well nothing is stopping you but if you are unable to find work, there’s nothing wrong with staying home, that’s fine just make sure that you still move,” she laughs.

Fusi is the perpetual optimist and she has lived through a few disasters in her lifetime to know that the people of Samoa will always overcome 

“Here in Samoa at least we always have something to sustain us from the land, its not like outside in other countries where if you don’t work, you will go hungry. Even when there is damage to our crops we can just cut them and regrow them again. Our country is good. God is good.”

© Samoa Observer 2016

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