Tough life on the Salelologa streets
Thirteen-year-old, Avia Ola is the third child of her parent’s six children.
She’s one of the growing numbers of child vendors you might come across at the Salelologa wharf.
“My six-year-old brother (youngest brother) is the only one in our family who is still in school.
“But all of us, five (girls) are no longer in school...we finished school at Year 6...and then went on the street selling chips and cocoa to provide for our family.
Avia told Samoa Observer that her mother gets her to sell chips for money.
“Our mother insists we go on the street because my father went to prison when we were young,”Avia said.
“The first time, I started, it wasn’t too hard for me because my other sisters enjoyed their time here (at Salelologa wharf) selling chips and that made it easier for me to adapt to the life on the street.
“And for now, I’m still enjoying it.
But there are dangers in this day-long job for young people, particularly girls.
“It was still dark and rainy one morning, when an old man showed me a ten talā ...he told me I could have it, but only when I hopped inside his truck but I refused and walked away. Then he swore at me.
“Some people also call us bad names, but I’m used to it. All I need is to sell these chips and return home early so that I can rest and get ready on the next day.
“Another problem is that we hardly have any food during the whole day on the street and at home as well so we go to bed hungry every night and it’s really hard.
“My mother explained to me back then, that this was her life when she was young, she was dropped off from school because her parents didn’t have that much (money) for her education.
“And it’s the same for us, we hardly have any food and money...and that is why we always try to push these chips around here to make living each day,” she said.
“The house that we’re staying in now is in a very bad condition especially when it rains. I mean we don’t have that much.
“Just me and my others sisters provide for our family because our mother stays home to look after my brother.
Moreover, she said that they start early before sunrise every day.
“We have to walk here every morning,” she said
“Our home is kind of further from here, I mean it’s at the other side of Salelologa.
She said: “I go home only after I’ve sold all of chips. It means I have to spend many hours selling, from early in the morning till late at night.”
“Every morning, I always start at the car park then continue inside here (at the wharf).
“The five of us collect between $10 to $20 per day, but we hardly save any money for food because we have to buy bananas, oil and salt to make chips for the days ahead.
“That’s why we have to come here at three o’clock in the morning because most people will be here at that time to catch the ferry and then we usually finish late.”
As for school, it is just not possible for now, she said.
“I’d love to go back to school but the problem is, my mother said no,” Avia explained.
“I think it’s really hard for her, because my father is not around to help her out.
“That’s my biggest wish, but for now, I have to obey my mother.
“I believe that I will be able to change my life even though it's a hard thing to do.
As for the future?
“I want to become a judge...so that I can release my father from prison,” she said.
“I think that’s the only way that will bring us (family) back together.
“Because when he left us, our family was not the same anymore.
“We dropped out of school so I think becoming a judge in the future to free our father from prison is the only action that will bring joy and happiness to our family.