‘When you’re poor, you have no shame’
Hardship and poverty knows no shame when it comes to providing for family.
That’s what motivates Akaka Tafeaga to keep going, day in and day out.
The 45-year-old mother of six has a disability. She uses a walking aid because of an old injury. She was spotted by the Village Voice out in the hot sun collecting empty soda and beer bottles to be exchanged for food at the store.
She was accompanied by her nine-year-old daughter who held the sack containing several bottles.
“We walked from Vaitele-uta to here (Nu’ufou) collecting the empty bottles,” she said shyly. “Eh, but you know when you’re poor there is no shame in that.
“I am a mother of six and I cannot just sit idle at home knowing that my children don’t have food to eat, so this is what I do.
“We don’t have a farm and so this is the only source of income we have.”
Asked why she does not have a job, the mother said she cannot keep a job due to her condition.
“As you can see I use a stick to help me walk. I cannot walk on my own; I have had problems on my left knee since I was young.
“But this does not stop me from collecting empty bottles to be exchanged for food for my kids.
“They are my responsibility and so despite my knee problem, I will continue to walk around looking for empty bottles,” she told the Village Voice.
As if being poor is not enough problems, Akaka also does not have stable water and no electricity at her residence.
“Our water was disconnected due to unpaid bills so our family depends on rain for water and we use candles for some light at nights.
“I guess my children are used to this type of life.
“One thing I am happy about is that all children attend school. “I push them to do better in school so they will be successful in life and live better lives than what they are going through right now,” she said.
According to Akaka she does not really depend on her husband who is a fisherman.
“He leaves the house on Monday and comes back on Saturday and sometimes he only brings home $50tala.
“My duty is to look for other means to care for my family and if this means walking around looking for empty bottles I will do it.
“My point is, if you are poor get up and do something, don’t sit home and expect a miracle to happen,” she said chuckling.
The mother also expressed displeasure with people giving her dirty looks.
“Some people who pass by are very judgmental, and I’m thinking, do you feed my children?
“What gives them the right to pass judgement, if they have jobs, well good on then, but don’t you dare judge me and how I help my family because you have not walked in my shoes,” said the furious mother.
“White Sunday is just around the corner and while I know I cannot afford brand new clothes for my children, but they know their mother cannot afford it…. but then my children will have some ice cream which they barely get and they will be happy and that is what keeps me going.”