Newly-formed non for profit group, Pacific Heart, made up of Michelle Simmons from Hawaii and Tili Young Yen from New Zealand, will be heading here on February 10th –16th, along with the reggae soul group “Culture Crew” on a shared mission to give back to the island nation they love.
Both groups are collaborating through music and charity to benefit schools from 10 villages with Pacific Heart aiming to give out stationery and sports supplies as well as educational aids to special needs school.
Although Michelle is based in Hawaii, and Tili in New Zealand, both ladies have a connection to each other and to Samoa that is deeper than blood. Their husbands, Faaleaga Young Yen and Fetafune Brandon Simmons, are both from the village of Lelepa in Savai’i and have been best friends for 21 years.
With both families visiting Samoa almost every year, Michelle and Tili had always talked about doing something together to give back to Samoa, a place they love and feel strong connections to.
“We’ve been talking about this for 10 years, but now that our kids are older and now we are a little bit more financially stable that we can help,” said Michelle.
“So we came up with the name, Tili came up with the name Pacific Heart. My middle son, whose 14, drew up our logo for us and we literally put this together last month.”
Pacific Heart’s charity work is self-funded and they’re hoping to get sponsorship for the coming years so they can expand and include more schools.
“We are personally funded this year,” Michelle said.
“Our goal is to do this every year and eventually get sponsors on board. Everything we’ve done is our personal funds and we are happy to do it.
We love Samoa. We come at least once a year with our kids and our families and play tourist. But this time we’ve come with a purpose. We are trying it, so we didn’t ask for any sponsorship or donor ship this first time.”
Based in the United States, Michelle’s family is close friends with Sam Schultz and Aaron of the Culture Crew based in Utah. A conversation with Sam and Aaron about Michelle and Tili’s plans to give back to their husband’s village inspired the group to jump on the bandwagon.
“So we are really good friends with Sam and Aaron from Culture Crew and we were telling them, hey we are going to go to Samoa and we are going to give school supplies to the school.
We’ve picked 10 villages that we know and we are donating over 1300 school packs between all the kids and so they (Culture Crew) were excited to jump on board with us.
“We’re so happy that Sam and the Culture Crew want to do this with us and they are going to perform at each school and they are going to do their water filtration thing at each school. So that’s how they ended up adding Samoa to their tour.”
The two friends, Michelle and Tili, arrived here in Samoa on January Saturday 20th, staying just six days to set up and organize for their upcoming tour in February with Culture Crew. They got to work straight away and met the Samoa Tourism Authority, the U.S embassy and local business S.S.A.B.
“We have been quite busy so we have been here since last Saturday. We’ve met S.T.A and we met the U.S. ambassador who wants to host us,” said Michelle.
“We wanted to give back and keep the money here so we worked a deal with S.S.A.B. and purchased all the school supplies that we are using from them. It just makes sense to get all the stuff here and they (S.S.A.B.) worked with us really well and worked out a really good price and that way we were able to use them.”
Pacific Heart and Culture Crew will end their “tour with a mission” with a free concert given by the soul reggae band to be held on Valentine’s Day in front of the government building.