Give them a break

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 15 February 2017, 12:00AM

Once upon a time, when Samoans think of New Zealand, they dreamt about the land of milk and honey. Many saw the land of the long white cloud as the land of opportunities, riches and fortune. 

And it was. In most cases, it was true. Compared to the lack of opportunities and finances on these remote shores, New Zealand indeed was the land of milk and honey. 

It was the land of jobs, opportunities and it allowed many of our people to flourish and reach their true potential. Let’s not forget that in New Zealand today, it is home to close to 100,000 Samoans if not more. 

Many of them are from here. Imagine if there was no New Zealand. Imagine if all those people were to remain in Samoa. With limited opportunities, lack of finances and so forth, the challenges as we seem them today would be multiple and much more complicated.

We have a lot to thank New Zealand for. No reason more important than the fact without those remittances, this country would not be where it is today. 

Indeed, if those millions of tala sent back from relatives and friends living outside of Samoa to care for their families here were to stop suddenly, many people in this country would not be able to cope with the demands of everyday living. 

That’s because the cost of living has become ridiculously expensive while household incomes have not improved by much, if there has been any improvement at all during the past couple of years.

So remittances – in some cases - become a matter of life and death.

Think about this: how would many people in Samoa cope without remittances? What would life for many Samoans be like without the generosity of their families and friends in New Zealand, Australia, United States, Europe and elsewhere around the world?

It’s a tough question we know but one that’s worth asking. 

Mind you, these people do much more than send money. They also send new cars, fridges, TV sets, food, containers of furniture and in some cases building materials for new homes.

But it’s not that they are loaded with cash and material wealth. Absolutely not.

We, the people living in Samoa, should be mighty grateful because the reality for most of our overseas relatives is a lot different than the rosy picture of people living on the ‘land of milk and honey’ as we’ve been told over the years.

For many of them, they are struggling to get by. 

On top of that, they too have obligations to the countries they live in. That includes taxes owed, children to feed, clothe and schooled, bills to pay and dreams to be fulfilled. 

The story titled “Fa’avale’s family plight” reprinted on page 5 of yesterday’s Samoa Observer breaks the heart. This is typical of so many cases of families who moved to New Zealand thinking it’s the dream life. 

From what we’ve been told 45-year-old Salati Fa’avale had moved from Samoa and had been working as a sand blaster in west Auckland when his eyes were injured on the job. His family struggled and eventually found themselves without a home on December 31.

The story went on to say that an acquaintance from church then offered the family crude poles and a large tarpaulin to use for shelter on their back lawn. Why the church acquaintance did not offer to accommodate Salati and his family inside his home remains a mystery. Perhaps the acquaintance’s home is already full. 

In any case, M.P. Carmel Sepuloni is now aware of the family’s plight.

“This family came here with aspirations and have tried to do everything right,” she said. “A lot of migrants arriving here don’t understand a lot of things - they think they do, but they don’t and this needs to be taken into consideration more by agencies meant to help them.”

The Fa’avales arrived in New Zealand almost three years ago under the Samoan quota residency scheme. But finances got tight when they took out a loan to buy a $1,800 car - Salati didn’t understand interest rates - and then felt compelled to send money to Samoa for an uncle’s funeral.

This is a very common story for many of our people overseas. It’s not just New Zealand, it also happens in Australia and wherever else in the world Samoans go to.

They sacrifice a lot of that simply to ensure their families in Samoa don’t go without. It’s a sacrifice that should not be taken for granted. It should be properly acknowledged, appreciated and reciprocated whenever possible. 

This should also ring the alarm bells for us in Samoa to stop demanding so much from our aigas overseas who can barely get by. Give them a break, especially if the call for money is not absolutely necessary.

That’s what we think anyway. What about you? Share your thoughts.

Have a wonderful Wednesday Samoa, God bless!

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 15 February 2017, 12:00AM

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