Plight of poor in times of happiness

By Ioana Tupa'i ,

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YOUNG GIRLS AT WORK: Two of the many street vendors working on the streets Apia day and night.

YOUNG GIRLS AT WORK: Two of the many street vendors working on the streets Apia day and night.

While the nation continues to celebrate the Festive Season with lots of food, monies and merry making, not everyone is as fortunate.

On the streets of Apia every day and night, there are young children hustling to help their families make ends meet. That includes putting food on the table.

In the process, they are being abused verbally and physically while simply trying to make a tala to feed their families.

For the past few days, this reporter spent some time talking to some of the young street vendors who weave between cars and scores of strangers – including drunks - to try and make a sale.

Many of the children are less than 10-years-old. They carry boxes of goods that range from ear buds, toothbrushes, boxes of matches and other things.

They are there at all sorts of hours, depending on how soon they can sell all they have been given by their parents and their superiors.

Sitting in front of the Samoa National Provident Fund Office on Beach Road was one child who said his name is Meki. He said he is from the village of Malie.

He and three other children were aggressively trying to make a sale.

Like other children vendors, they were there under strict instructions.

“I am here to sell popcorns for $2 tala and I have to sell them all,” the eight-year-old said.

“I go to school but now school is finished so I am here in town selling popcorn to help my family’s daily survival.”

Meki is from a family of nine.

“We all have to do our part to help our family.

“I try to sell all the popcorns during the day because I have to go home at 6pm.”

Next to him were twins who identified themselves as Mena and Kalolina. Their curfew is a little later.

“We normally go home at 10pm,” Mena said.

“My twin sister and I are selling ear buds and boxes of matches for $2 tala a packet. The money we get from here we give it to our parents at home.”

The twins told the Samoa Observer that they only sell during weekends and not school days.

“When it is time to go home, my sister and I have to catch a lift,” she said. “So who ever stops for us on the road, we get a ride with them because we have to be at home.

“We are used to it, we just have to make sure that we get a lift to our village.”

No one has been able to answer the question of where exactly these young children get the goods from.

But the Samoa Observer understand that parents work with certain businesses to supply them the stuff to push on the streets.

Down at the Marina at Matautu, it was well after 11 when the Samoa Observer saw another young boy who identified himself as Lesi.

Asked what he was doing out so late, he said it wasn’t late.

“This is normal for me,” he said. “I sometimes go home at 12 or 1 in the morning.”

He was selling leis and soft drinks.

“This is what I do to help my parents.” 

Before the Samoa Observer could ask him another question, a drunk man pulled him over for a lei. 

“I’m used to dealing with drunk people. I just let them say whatever as long as I get my money.”

But these young children have high hopes.

They don’t want to be street vendors forever.

“I want to work as a firefighter because I want to help families whose homes are engulfed in flames,” Keli said. 

As for the twins, they aspire to become Police officers.

Why? 

They want to keep families safe from bad people. 

© Samoa Observer 2016

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