The heartbreaking plight of young “Ivan”

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

Two days ago, a story was published on page 3 of the Samoa Observer titled “A four year old street vendor.” It immediately caught the attention. The story was accompanied by a photograph of a young boy who was identified as “Ivan.”  

 “Ivan” is one of the many child vendors who roam the streets by hawking cheap goods to provide for their family at all sorts of hours. He is among a growing number of kids forced on to the streets to find money for their families.

This has undeniably become a feature of life in Samoa today.

Now isn’t it downright distressing that while there are people like this young Ivan who has been forced to live a life of hustling out of desperation and want at such an early age and yet the government just doesn’t seem to care about them at all? 

It’s true that his parents must take responsibility for sending this kid onto the streets but the parents too are victims of a system where people are wallowing in want, petty poverty and hardship for many factors. While Samoa looks beautiful from afar, when you peel away the layers one by one, you will find that many families live a life of hardship, struggles and poverty every day. 

These street vendors are a classic example.

Which makes us extremely sad. Think about the millions of tala that have been wasted by negligence, abuse and corrupt practices in the public service that could have been used to help these families. That money could change young Ivan’s life. 

What we must always remember is that when public officials in positions of power opt to satisfy their whims at the public’s expense, the rest are unfairly denied of their rightful share. The poor among us suffer the most. Which is precisely what we are seeing.

Ivan’s story is heartbreaking.

 “I felt sick most of the time but my mother told me that I have to help her and my other siblings to look for money so that we could survive from day to day,” he told the Samoa Observer. “Usually we sleep in front of other shops if we are all tired, especially when no one wants to buy our stuff.”

Every day is a struggle, he tells us.

“Before day time, we catch a bus to come here to sell popcorns. Sometimes my mother leaves me with my other two siblings here and goes back home,” he said.

“That’s why we sleep in front of shops some nights. Someday we walk all the way back to our village when we finish selling our stuff at night.”

“Sometimes we hardly eat, so I try to sell these popcorns and ask people for money to buy me twisties and ice-pop.”

Asked whether he wants to attend school next year, he said yes.

“My mother told me that if I want to go to school next year then I have to sell as much popcorn as possible so that she could provide for my new uniform,” he said.

The good news is that since Ivan’s story was published, some good Samaritans have contacted the Samoa Observer, offering to help the young boy and his family. 

But we know for a fact Ivan is not the only one. There are many young people like Ivan out there.

The question is who is responsible for them? What about the welfare of their families which is the primary reason these kids end up on the streets in the first place?

Well the simple answer is that the Government is responsible. Prime Minister Tuilaepa and his administration should feel duty bound to do as much as they can to help these families out of their sad situations.

What’s the point of having those multi-million-tala facilities when Samoans are becoming poorer by the day, having to resort to a life of begging to get by?

The stories of these people – including Ivan - are ones of perennial struggle to cope with today’s crippling cost of living, where in doing so they know they must resort to austerity measures to get by. 

For them there is not a glimmer of hope in sight.

Will the Government continue to turn a blind eye? And lastly, where is the church in all this? Does it care? Does it feel responsible to help?

Have a wonderful Thursday Samoa, God bless!

© Samoa Observer 2016

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