Beggars, kids on the streets and Samoa today

And so once again, we are done with another celebration of our Independence Day. Today all is well that ends well. 

With our special guests making their way back to their countries with great stories and memories to share, we ourselves will look back with fondness and remember with joy the events of the past few days.

The national holiday today – although deemed unnecessary and costly especially for members of the business community – is an opportunity to pause and reflect. 

Many of us will have different things to remember. 

Whether it’s the early morning parade, entertainment or the good old catching up with old friends and families, these are memories of a lifetime. 

Keep in mind that for some people, it wasn’t exactly a joyous occasion. Some members of this community spent the Independence reeling from the loss of a loved one because of death. Which means that from now onwards, they will remember Independence for the reason that it is when a loved one was called home. We pray and wish peace and comfort upon them at this moment.

As we rest on this national holiday, looking back it is unquestionable that life in Samoa is better than most places - near and far. For starters, despite all the challenges and our faults, we still enjoy a very peaceful existence which is something many people around the world can only dream of.

While nobody knows what tomorrow brings or whether we will even get there, it’s safe to say that us and our children have a better chance of waking up alive and well compared to some people in other parts of the world being torn asunder by strife, bloody tensions and war.

Which is a wonderful blessing for us. Indeed, there is plenty of life in Samoa for us to enjoy. 

But there is also much work that needs to be done. It has everything to do with helping the least fortunate among us and some of the most vulnerable members of this community. It has something to do with addressing poverty, hardship and helping to improve the future prospects of our children. 

Looking around Samoa today, in our humble opinion, there are too many young children begging on the streets and being used as money earners when they clearly should be in school. This is an issue that should concern all of us, because it is so in our faces. Everyday. 

It doesn’t matter where we are. We could be sitting at a very flash restaurant eating the most exotic food and suddenly they pop up out of nowhere. 

You could be walking down the streets and they will hassle you. You might be sitting in your car and they will knock on the window. These people are the face of deteriorating poverty and hardship in paradise. 

It’s ironic because for all the wonderful things Samoa has achieved – and we’ve achieved a lot – this unfortunately is the impression visitors to this country will take back with them. 

What’s important is that, while we bask in the glory of our achievements as a people and a nation, we should acknowledge that there are real issues in paradise, which we believe should be at the forefront of our national conversation. 

A lot of people - including Prime Minister Tuilaepa - say poverty does not exist in Samoa. 

They have a point but if you look at the number of beggars on the streets and those street vendors, would they be out there if there were no poverty? 

If they had a choice – in terms of income generation – would they be so willing to brave the elements just to sell something for a tala? 

Think about those young boys and girls who are on the streets every night, every day? Would they be there if they did not need to be? Would their parents have been so ruthless as to push them out there if they had a choice?

The truth is simple enough. These people are so poor they are stuck in a rut called poverty. It’s a poverty of jobs, poverty of ways to earn money and poverty of opportunity that ultimately results in the poverty of your stomach.

As a country, we cannot ignore their plight. 

Think about this for a moment. Samoa has been independent for 56 years now. In 1962, there were no beggars and street vendors. Today, the streets of Samoa are littered by them. We claim to have made a lot of progress and that we have come far. Have we really? 

Have a restful Monday Samoa, God bless!

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