Imagine having to stretch $120 tala a week to care for a family of ten?
Well that’s just a glimpse of how life has been for Manila Tupa’i from the village of Leulumoega Tuai.
She truly understands that hardship in Samoa is real. Struggling is how she described her life for the past few years.
However, the mother of eight said although it is hard, she held on to her faith and hopes that one day, they will no longer struggle.
“I have eight children and most of them are at the age where they have to go to school,” said Manila.
“The main problem we have is in terms of money. We always struggle to find money to raise my children and to feed my family.”
“My husband is the breadwinner of the family because I am always at home to look after the kids. But I always help out every now and then to lighten the burden my husband carries.”
Manila said the expensive cost of living nowadays is just not helping them at all.
“You know with the little money that we had, we really struggled to stretch that small amount of money so it can cover the whole week.”
“But you know, it is really hard when there are a lot of things to do with the little money that you have. “I have eight children, they needed to go to school, it is also our responsibility to feed them and do everything they want for school as well.”
“But you know we also have other obligations like family fa’alavelave, church donations, bills to pay and food.”
“I am sure you are aware that we are all born in different environment and different families. And for my family, things are hard for us.”
Said Manila, their vegetable garden is only thing they depend on to provide money for them.
Her vegetable garden is not big, but they all work on it and sell it to get money.
Moreover, Manila said she has a 17 year old son that helps them out with the delivery and the selling of their vegetables.
“My second to the eldest son helps us with the selling of our vegetables. He was 15 years old when he first dropped out of school to help me with delivering our vegetables to the market and other places.”
“He stopped going to school because he is not a bright student. He didn’t want to continue going to school and we’ve been pushing him to go back to school but he gave up. My son saw how hard it was for me and my husband trying to find ways to get money and also do other chores and responsibilities at home, and he offered his help.”
“Sometimes I would raise my voice and tell him off so that he would give up on helping me and go back to school.”
“But he is very stubborn.”
Manila went on to say that it breaks her heart to see her son doing this but she hides away her emotions most of the time.
“At first, he said to me that he wanted to see for himself how it is to earn money for the family.”
“He said to me once that it feels nice helping our family and especially me. I told him that I don’t want him to keep living like this, but he didn’t want to listen to me.”
“He said he wanted to help me. I didn’t stop him from going to school. He wanted to stay home and help me with all the work that I do at home.”
“He is a great help for me and you know we all need help sometimes. For me, I try and do everything on my own even though it’s tough.”
“Having to raise eight children and also find ways to earn money to raise them well.”
However, Manila said it was her children that kept her going in life.
“You know sometimes people look at you and judge you for who you are and what you have, but for me, I didn’t mind any of that because I was doing it for my children.”
“I never stopped hoping that one day; God will show us an open door for me and my husband so that we can find a way to help us raise our children.”
And today, Manila is happy and ready to embark on her new journey to start her new business, thanks to a programme by the Ministry of Women, Community and Social Development.
The programme included a training, which aimed at enhancing the capacity of parents or families who are vulnerable.
Manila was one of the participants, and she will now operate a small business selling printed materials and other handicrafts.
Not only that, but her son will also get a chance to go back to school. He will attend the Laumua o Puna’oa Institute under the Youth Employment Programme by the M.W.C.S.D. in partnership with U.N.D.P.
Manila told the Samoa Observer that she is grateful to God for the great opportunity.
“I am also grateful to the people who came up with this plan and this training.”
“I was hesitant at first, but I am happy that I came and participate. I learnt a lot from this not only about how to start a small business, and also how to operate it well so that it can grow.”
“We have been taught as well on how to save money for our children and their future.”