It’s 10:30am and a soft breeze carries the laughter from the open games area at Mapuifagalele Home for the aged.
Carved Samoan poles frame the area, where residents sit around in wheelchairs playing dominos.
Run by the Little Sisters of the Poor, the home sits on fifteen acres of land.
It is in this tranquil setting that the Sisters care for the sick and elderly in Samoa who are otherwise unable to afford the care they need.
The day begins with mass at 7:15am each morning. Breakfast is at 8:30am, which is followed by activities.
This week’s activities included Zumba, handicrafts, movies, games and gospel sharing.
Lunch is at 11:30am and dinner is at 5:30pm.
Between these meals residents can relax and play games. Meals are split between three dining rooms. One for the residents who can feed themselves, one for the females who need to be fed and one for the males who need to be fed.
The Sisters first arrived in Samoa in 1971 at the request of Cardinal Pio Taofinu’u and began their work visiting sick elderly in their own homes.
It wasn’t until 1975 that Mapuifagalele was opened. The building itself is infused with Samoan designs and welcomes plenty of natural light. While the architect and much of the materials were from overseas, local workers were employed in the construction.
The home is run by the Little Sisters of the Poor and relies entirely on donations.
They do daily collections in shops, businesses and companies.
Speaking to the Sunday Samoan, Sister Lucy explained how they are able to care from the elderly thanks to these collections.
“We look after the elderly. We provide their food, medicine, their linen, we clean them and pay their bills,” she said.
“People are very understanding. Especially here in Samoa, people are so generous, so kind, so sharing. St. Joseph is our provider. He inspires the people to help us. We trust in God and he provides for us.”
Nowadays Mapuifagalele is home to 45 residents. However, previously it held about 80 beds. Sister Sarah explained that due to the changing needs, this number had to be reduced.
“Previously they were mobile but now there are a lot of special needs and people who are wheelchair-bound.”
Caring for the residents are eight sisters; three from Samoa, three from India, one from Kenya and one from Spain. There are also two nurses and one priest.
Sister Sarah who grew up in Samoa received her “call from God through the Sisters”. In 1973 she befriended the Sisters while working at the supermarket where the Sisters came to do their shopping.
“One day they asked me to help them so I said ‘sure, I’ll give you a weekend.’ I went with them carrying bags and saw what they were doing. I saw all the sick, elderly, really in great need. We bathed them, fed them, cleaned their wounds and gave them painkillers.
“I thought to myself, who am I to enjoy myself when these four Sisters from the other side of the world have left their homes and loved ones behind to come here and look after the sick and elderly of Samoa?”
Another of the Little Sisters at Mapuifagalele is Sister Lucy who grew up in India.
It was her blood sister, also a Little Sister who encouraged her to see what they did and then decide if it was for her. After one month living with the Little Sisters in Bangalore, Sister Lucy knew that was where she was meant to be.
“They were very loving the way they cared for the elderly. There is so much love. The Sisters and the residents are like a family. Then I understood what I was looking for.”
Sister Lucy has since also been placed in Australia, France and now Samoa since May last year.
There are currently groups of Little Sisters of the Poor in over 30 countries.