Admitting ones struggle is almost seen as taboo in Samoa.
It’s seen as a jab to ones pride and Samoans are well known for their unbreakable pride. But for Filonia Taamilo, from the village of Tufulele, she has no shame in admitting her family struggles every day.
Aged 30, Filonia lives inland on a dirt road with everything located very far away.
Her day consists of long walks to drop and pick up her children to and from school and long walks to her plantation.
Although she struggles, hard work to provide for children is her priority.
“My family doesn’t earn much money but we still try our best. We managed to save up enough money over the years to afford a water pipe extension,” she said.
“We paid it off through sales of pawpaw, vegetables and other small things.
“Even though our plantation is very far from where we live, we still make the effort to go and find ways to earn a bit of money for what we need.”
With much of her time spent on walking everywhere, Filonia says it’s not an easy way to live.
“All the time I have in a day goes to walking,” she said.
“My children’s school is very far away so I walk very far distances to take them then I walk back. I also have to walk all the way to our plantation to get things to sell. It’s not easy especially in Samoa’s weather.”
“Another problem is that our road is un-sealed so by the time my children get to school, their clothes are very dirty.”
Even when earnings are minimal for the hardworking mother, the expensiveness of life only makes matters worse.
“I can’t stress enough how expensive things are these days, especially with shops all the way up here, they take advantage of us because we live far away from supermarkets,” Filonia said.
“I have four children and when I buy our daily sugar and flour, it’s just not enough. We have to ration everything a lot of the times.”
“On top of using our money for our daily needs and meals, we have obligations that we need to take care of. Life is not so simple for us.”
“My husband has a job but his pay isn’t enough for everything; our whole family relies a lot on his strength. That’s how life is for us.”
“My priority is always my children.”
Problems after problems, Filonia’s family struggles on almost all fronts. Even with basic needs such as water, the common cuts prove to be a nuisance.
“The sad things is, we pay our water bills but sometimes the water goes off and we are not sure of when it will come back on,” she said.
“That’s only the start of the struggles we face. We sometimes eat dinner from goods bought on credit. And with everything that I have to do that takes money, my one and only priority is my children.”
“If I save up for something and another thing comes up at my children’s school then I would cancel what I want so that their needs are met.”
“I never want to witness my children suffering because I know it will break my heart.”
Filonia’s only request for the sake of the children is for the government to bring a school to her village or even a few buses to add their area into their routes.
“The one thing we do need in our village is a school,” she said.
“Life is starting to move fast in Samoa and when children have to walk to school then their safety is at risk. We hear about a lot of accidents with children involved and a school here will eliminate that risk.
“We can’t watch our children all day to keep them safe. If not a school, then at least buses which can come up here because none want to make the trip.”
“Rain or sunshine, our children always go to school. Using plastic bags as raincoats is normal for us.”