Voices from the village

Yesterday, as you are now aware, a new feature in your newspaper, the Samoa Observer, began.

Called “Village Voice,” its aim is to give those members of the public who are living in the villages further away from Apia, the chance to talk about their lives in general as well as exercise their right to express their opinions freely and openly.   

So that not only do we believe this is vitally necessary for everyone who calls this country home, but it can also be used as the chance to respectfully seek help from their government, when help is desperately needed.

Which reminds of the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States (S.D.S.), that Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi hosted in Apia on 1 September 2014, and was attended by the United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon.

Guided by the slogan, “Island Voices, Global Choices,” Mr Ban Ki-moon, in his remarks, told his audience: “I see small island developing states as a magnifying glass.

“When we look through [their] lens, we see the vulnerabilities we all face. 

“And by addressing the issues facing small island developing states, we are developing the tools we need to promote sustainable development across the entire world.”

He also said: “We are here to seek a renewed commitment to small island developing states by focusing on practical actions and durable partnerships.” 

Mr Ki-moon was probably not aware, but when he described small island developing states as a magnifying glass, explaining that when we look through their lenses, we see the vulnerabilities we all face, he was speaking directly to the majority of the people of this country who are living in the villages, and have been doing so over the years.   

Today we see their vulnerabilities showing up boldly everywhere, and yet with the way bureaucratic corruption is being allowed to run wild in this country thus depriving many of their rightful share, it seems clear there is really nothing anyone can do to make things right.

Incidentally, when Samoa Observer reporters drove around Falealili on Thursday this week, they found that villagers were pretty eager to say what they thought. 

Published in the  “Village Voice” yesterday, please read what they said, if you have not done so already, and then tell the rest what you think. 

Sale and Leata Petersen of Tafatafa.

They said the government was still ignoring “our cry for help to rebuild our home.”

The elderly couple explained that their home was destroyed by Cyclone Evans in 2012, and now “we are tired of waiting.

“The whole front part of our house has gone thanks to Cyclone Evan,” said Mr. Petersen.

“We were left with just the back of our house and that is what we’ve been using from 2012 till now.

“We have been contacting the government officials who are dealing with these kind of problems but they told us to be patient, they are working on it.

“From 2012 till now 2016, and look at the condition of our home?  Still no improvement and up until now, all the government is telling us is to be patient.”

Mrs. Petersen said they have been patient for four years now and it seems like their cry for help is being ignored by the government.

“We see that there have been some nice buildings going up that cost millions of tala and when we ask other people they say they were built by the government,” she said.

“Our home is not going to cost them $50,000 tala and yet we have been waiting for four years.”

Afoa Aliva of Tafitoala, Safata.

He is of the opinion that Church commitments, are the cause of poverty.

He says it is no secret that churches in Samoa hold a lot of influence over the people, and that is to be expected in a nation that claims it’s founded on God.

“But when churches misuse that strong influence, then that’s when we know we need to take a few steps back.”

He says it’s noticeable that many times in Samoa, some preachers’ favorite teachings centre on giving to the church, even when they see that many among their flocks are struggling.

A farmer by profession, Afoa says this is one of the reasons those living in rural villages suffer.

 “There are many families in the rural villages just like my own who have no working family members,” he reveals.  

“It is just me and my wife with our kids in school. Not one of them has graduated yet.

“A lot of our money goes to schooling because we put their education first. In these back villages there are many things that take up money such as village activities.

“But the money going to village activities is nothing compared to what goes to the church; the ration is 1:10.

Mr. Aliva admits life in the rural villages can get difficult at times with a lot of his money going to many different unnecessary things.

“Money goes to things for the villages and especially things for the churches,” he said.

“I will repeat what I said before … the money going to village activities is nothing compared to the money going to the churches.

“This is because village activities aren’t common; but for the church, wow, there is not a single denomination that does not have church activities.

“At times I find myself praying to God asking if this is right.”

“Samoa is without Poverty?”

Nive Tulaga of Poutasi and Falealili

She tells his family’s story: “We have child vendors everywhere; beggars on the street and if one takes time to drive in the rural areas, you will notice that there are definitely people living under the poverty line.

The village standard of living is just too difficult to handle.

Nive said she found that taking care of her elderly mother, and putting her five children in school with what she’s earning from selling crops from her small plantation, we are barely getting by every day.

“Life in the rural villages is hard,” she told the Samoa Observer.

“I am currently unemployed because I was asked to come here and look after the family, but now I’m trying to find another job to help out with everything here at home.

“We need money to help with everyday life; I have a sibling in Apia who works but they need to support their own family, so that for us we are struggling.

“We just got our children’s school bills and they’re pretty expensive, especially with the School C and S.S.L.C. bills.”

Aside from not being able to earn any decent money, Mrs. Tulaga also claims that the cost of living is too high and the goods at shops are getting more and more expensive.

“The cost of living is just too high nowadays,” she said.

“If you don’t have work then your children won’t eat. Simple as that; right now we are living on our plantation and that is also our source of money.”

‘There are so many things to do here in the village but we don’t know where we can find the money to do them all.”

Grandmother, Faatolu Seigafo, 

of Siumu.

Aged 62, she says village life is hard.

She told the “Village Voice” that life in the village was not as easy as that in town.

“When we talk about poverty we refer to money, because money is everything and so life is hard when it comes to money,” she said.

“With our family we have only one working person and that is my son who is employed at the Sinalei Resort.

“His pay helps us to pay for one of his brother’s children and then we have church commitments and as well as village commitments.

“However, with village commitments we can afford but as for church and school, that is where we suffer.

“I have three grandchildren who are attending school at the moment and they all need money for registration and then, we have their lunch to worry about and then school activities that also require us parents to fork out money for their tausala.

“It’s very hard because sometimes I would complain to the teachers that not all families are rich but they are demanding money for this and that but they don’t know how hard it is for other families to survive.”

Ms. Seigafo said that not only with school but also with the churches as well.

“I know that this problem doesn’t happen in just one village but it happens in all the villages and to everyone else.

“Sometime I think that we are more worried about how we are going to give to the church but at the end we suffer because we don’t know how we are going to feed our families.

“That is the problem that the government doesn’t know about the life here in the rural, commitment is everywhere and all those commitment it requires us to give money.”

Ask about what she thinks the government should do, Ms. Seigafo said they (government) should really come up with ways to help the villages in the rural areas.

“This is hardship here not in the town area,” she said.

“We should be able to be treated the same way as people in Apia are being treated but it seems like they (government) are more focusing on the development of Apia rather than focusing on us too.

“We need help in any way, we are not telling them to give us money for free we are basically asking them to provide more opportunities for our children to work so they can look after our family.

“That is what we are asking for is help give opportunities for the young ones because they are the ones who are looking after our family.

“We know that the cost of living is sky rocketing but that is how it is, but at least help the people of Samoa first before you consider helping others.”

So what do you think?

Should the government help?

Have you got a solution?

If so, please share it with the rest.

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