Meet Lohia Laufai Leavasa, a 56 year old father from the village of Uafato Fagaloa.
He was spotted by the Village Voice carving Samoan handicrafts with his wife Iaeli and his children at their home at Uafato.
Speaking to the Samoa Observer yesterday, Lohia said making and carving Samoan handicraft is such a blessing from God for their family.
“The people of Uafato have been doing this for more than 30 years ago,” said Lohia.
“The talent was brought into Uafato and was taught by the son of a man named Tuimalatuū and then it was passed down to us and our children.
“People of our village depend so much on this for income and it has become a norm for us. If our children don’t do well in school, this is what they do for living. They stay home and help out with this.”
As this is something every family in Uafato does for a living, Lohia said they all have different ways of selling their handicrafts.
“I don’t deliver my products to the market like the other families of our village. I deliver my products to Janet’s of Samoa and Pacific Jewel at Levili.
“These two businesses have opened their doors for us. We deliver our products such as staff (to’oto’o), kava bowls (tanoa) and others. And we do deliveries every week.”
According to Lohia, before they knew how to make these handicrafts, they depended on selling coconuts for money.
But they are grateful for this talent for it has been a great blessing for them.
“For your information, we get $900 tala every week from our deliveries and this helps our family with a lot of things.”
However, like anything in life, there are always challenges to overcome. And the main problem they see in the kind of the business they do is the unfair pricing.
“In this kind of business, we do all the hard work. We go all the way up the mountains and into the forest to look for the right tree which is called the ifilele (tropical hardwood) to use.
“And it takes a lot of time and effort to get it done. But to be honest with you, the businesses whom we sell our products to make more money than us from selling the handicrafts.
“To me, I think this is unfair. And I think our government should have a law or guidelines for businesses like that so that we all get the same benefit.
“Because if they buy it from us for $100 tala, they will sell it to people for $200 or more. But we are the ones doing all the hard work.”
However, he also believes that in life, nothing comes easy.
“We all need to sweat and work in order to be successful. If don’t sweat, you will suffer.
“The good thing about the business that we do is that we do it together as a family and as a village.
“It makes everything easy and fun. You get motivated just by looking at your wife and your children working hard as well.
“We always hear the saying that many hands make light work and I definitely agree with that.
“Working together is the key to the success of this business in our village. And I am grateful to God for his great talents and for providing us with the strength and resources to pursue this talent. We depend on this business so much hence why we all work together and help one another. Teamwork is very very important.”