“We have one pot and that’s what we use to cook everything including banana chips to sell. Someone threw away their teapot so we got that from the rubbish and that’s what we’re using now for our tea.”
That’s just a glimpse into the life of Sefulua’i Mulitalo, from the village of Saoluafata-uta.
Aged 29, Sefulua’i’s story is one of struggle and hardship which she faces every day.
Barely making enough for the day, the hardworking mother explains how hard life is for her and her small family. “Life is moving so fast right now,” she explained to the Village Voice. “As you can see with the state of our house and the way we live, my family is really struggling. I don’t have any siblings, I’m the only child of my parents. “I married very young and ten years ago because my parents wanted me to have someone to take care of me. My parents passed away the following year and now it’s just my small family and I.
“The thing that saddens me is that I wasn’t able to give them grandchildren before they passed but now I have my own children.”
She admits that her family faces so much hardship but she doesn’t use it as an excuse. She finds any means to make money for her loved ones.
“My family has always been weak but I thank the Lord for all he has done for us,” Sefulua’i said.
“One of the gifts that the Lord has blessed with me is not having any shame especially when it comes to selling things to make a living.
“We make our money through many different things; we sell coconut strainers (kauaga), banana chips, crops, handicrafts and so on.
“I try and do whatever it takes to earn a living for my family but it’s never been enough; we have been struggling for a while now.
“My husband helps out but most of the work is done by me. I may be young but I always try and look for ways in hopes of giving something nice for my children as they grow.
“We cook our food in one pot then after dinner then I use that same pot to fry my chips to sell.”
Sefulua’i explains that even before starting her own family, her parents also struggled and she doesn’t want the same for her children.
“I did well in school but my parents couldn’t afford to pay for further schooling when I made it into N.U.S,” she said.
“When I stopped I started to find different small jobs at accommodations, restaurants and wherever. Once my children were born I had to stay home and bring them up, they are still very young.
“I make red seed products (Lopa) and I weave different types of mats. My husband would get embarrassed when he sees me selling things but what other option do we have?
“I sell brooms as well and anything I am able to make money from.”
While many find shame in desperately finding ways to make ends meet, Sefulua’i says that shame will only make things worse for you. “The one thing I know with this lifestyle is that shame is your enemy,” she said.
“If you are ashamed to do anything then you won’t get anywhere in life. If you want something with life then you must go and do whatever means necessary to get it.
“Shame comes from the devil and with a struggling family like mine; there is no room for shame. My children will starve if I was ashamed of what I have to do to make money.
“I also had to learn quickly how to make banana chips. It’s been a good source of money for my family for a while but I still need to work hard to make money other ways.”
But in all that struggle and desperation, there are still positive aspects of Sefulua’i’s situation.
“One thing I am grateful for is all the skills I have learnt overtime due to my desperation,” she admits.
“I am grateful for everything I get. Even if my children fight over who has more coconut cream on their taro, I am grateful.
“The Lord will always provide no matter how much we struggle. I teach my children never to be ashamed of anything and I have instilled many lessons in their heart. “We are struggling but I will still try my best to take care of my small family.”