Often as humans we fear, discriminate and alienate what we do not understand.
There’s no disputing the fact that we have an increasing number of child vendors in Samoa and it saddens many hearts… but what are we doing to help? Why don’t we act on those saddened hearts?
Rather than help, we often see these children as a plight, a product of bad parenting and turn a blind eye to the cries for help but instead we complain, we talk and yet we do not act.
But a young girl with a heart as pure as gold, has shown that even a small lesson on reading can go a long way; she has become a solution and till this day she continues to walk the talk.
Fourteen year old Quenjule Slaven from Moamoa, who initiated a programme to teach child vendors how to read at the Nelson Memorial Library every Monday and Tuesday back in February, has seen her programme flourish and bloom.
With about 25 students made up of both primary school children and child vendors under her watchful eyes and those of her volunteer team, she has created a safe place for learning; a place without any uniform, background, age or any other form of barrier… just a place for those who have a desire to learn.
“Even when she’s really sick she will tell me that she has to go and teach her students. She says that the children are in need of the reading lessons and she won’t give up on them,” said Quenjule’s proud mother, Juliann Slaven.
But Quenjule isn’t the only one keen about the programme.
“The eagerness (of the students) to learn is amazing,” Mrs. Slaven said.
“They want to be here every day. They want to learn and as you can see, they are constantly trying… they are not just sitting around waiting; they are wanting to learn.
“The most important thing is they now have that trust in us and they feel really good about it.”
Fighting back tears, Mrs. Slaven could barely describe how proud she is of everything her daughter has achieved.
“I am speechless when it comes to Quenjule,” she said.
“Every parent wants to see her child take the initiative and do something; not just for themselves but for the community and for their peers.
“I am just very blessed because we tell her not to just talk about it but do something about it. She was complaining about child vendors and I told her to act and that her father and I would support her if she wanted to do more.
“Basically I just try and be here for her and gear her the right way.
“ I just want to thank God for being here for our family.
“Making time to help these kids is the least we can do for them; I am very proud of my daughter.”
But what sort of upbringing has given such a young girl one of the biggest hearts in Samoa?
“The only upbringing was from the Bible,” Mrs. Slaven said.
“We taught all our kids to read from the Bible no matter how old they are.
“When they grow up that way, the values from the Bible are instilled in them as they grow older. They know what they should do and with us as parents reminding them; it’s all in the Bible.
“If you enforce that tool to any child, then they will grow up with God in their hearts then they will become adults who know the right path.”
Mrs. Slaven’s message for Samoa is for us to help those around us no matter who they are. “Each of us has been given blessings; each of us have been blessed with a great life,” she said.
“We’ve been born under different circumstances but these children did not ask to be born under poverty; they did not ask to not go to school.
“We have to realize that we are all God’s people and as Christians which the majority of us are; we should always help one another.
“We should help these children because it’s not their fault that they are in this situation; they may be annoying to some, but put yourself in their shoes.
“If you did not have a choice, if you didn’t have food, home or an education; the last thing you would want is for people to treat you badly.
“Give a little smile or show a little bit of attention to them; it doesn’t cost much to say a kind word to someone.
“We as Christians are here to help others and if someone comes your way, then maybe God put him or her in your way. You should help rather than ignore or complain.
“Complaining won’t help the many problems we already have on this earth; that’s my personal advice. “
Along with the support from the Library, Quenjule’s family from all over the globe has seen the value of her programme and has showed support through different donations.
There has also been much support from different individuals and companies such as Pacific Forum Line and R.&J. Mackenzie but according to Mrs. Slaven there is a still need for volunteers to help out.
“I would like to humbly thank our Heavenly Father for His grace which is more than enough for each new day in this beautiful country,” Mrs. Slaven said.
“Keeping Him first place and pleasing Him is a priority in my family. Glory and honour belongs to Him for giving us the strength, wisdom and daily guidance to also elevate those around us.
“I also want to thank the community and families who have contributed their time and resources in the past to help this programme continue. It means a lot to Quenjule and the volunteers but most importantly to our children who are here at the library every day.
“I am very proud of these children and I am thankful to their families. They see the potential in getting an education. If we can change the life of even one child, then we really can’t go wrong as a community.”
Volunteers Special Mention:
• Quenjule Slaven (founder)
• Juliann Slaven
• Alexandria Slaven
• Tanya Southgate
• Amelia Southgate0Peni
• Jorim- Paul Phillips
• Ruth Manuleleua
• Maima Lafao Sami