Blessings, hardship and hope

And so all is well that ends well. It’s been a busy week with lots of activities that kept most of us occupied. 

There were a lot of meetings, trainings, workshops and of course the countless church gatherings happening throughout the country.  At these meetings, people’s needs – whatever they were - were met. 

At the church gatherings, people were fed, the spiritually malnourished were well nourished and their thirst for the things of God were well and truly quenched so that today we sit back and marvel at just how blessed we are. We say this because we should not take the peace and tranquility in Samoa for granted. 

Looking at the horror in some places near and far where innocent lives have been taken by terrorism, war and strife, Samoa is indeed blessed. So let’s acknowledge the hand of God Almighty over our lives, his blessings and mercies that are new every morning.

It doesn’t mean that we have it perfect. Far from it. We still have plenty of challenges and problems to deal with. But that’s the beautiful aspect about being refreshed, revived and recharged. 

It gives us the ability to go again, be better and push harder against those barriers. We are here for such a time as this for a purpose, a God-ordained purpose to make a difference and be a blessing.

In Samoa today, the reality of life is quite difficult to accept. We live at a time defined by hardship, rise in petty crimes among so many other social challenges.

As this piece is being compiled, I am reminded about a young student from the Adventist College at Lalovaea who dropped into my office uninvited back in 2013. La’aloa Onesemo, 17, had come to see me as part of a school research and her topic was even more unusual, I thought. On a piece of paper I was handed were these words; “Poverty in Samoa: Samoa experiencing poverty, which the Government is turning a blind eye on...”

Now, in this place, I get to see hundreds of students every year. They range from primary school kids wanting to know what a newspaper is to PhD students from all over the world doing their thesis about one topic or another. Hardly anyone tackles the issue of poverty though. They are either scared or they cannot be bothered. Yet, here was a young girl in front of me, so passionate about wanting know about poverty in Samoa as if her future depended on it, it was refreshing.

“Why did you become interested in this topic? At your age, shouldn’t you be interested in the latest technological gadgets and the like?” I asked.

“I read your newspaper a lot,” she said. “I also follow the news about what the Government has been saying about the issue. I live at Vaitele and I see a lot of parallels and similarities with what’s reported in your newspaper and what people are going through.”

Well, seeing is believing! 

Obviously young La’aloa knew something.

For the uninitiated, the greater Vaitele area, including Vaitele-uta and Vaitele-fou, is one of the fastest growing areas in Samoa. It is a hotbed of social chaos since you have so many people from all over the place crammed into quarter acre lots, creating all sorts of problems. Suffice to say, theft, robberies and sex crimes are among the most common challenges.

But this is expected. When you allow that many people to congregate on very limited land with no resources, you are asking for trouble. Coupled with high unemployment and the rigorous demands by family, culture and church, these people can hardly cope with everyday Samoan life, both financially and emotionally. Thus, trapped in that precarious dilemma, they become desperate and succumb unwittingly to committing the unthinkable.

The worry is that Vaitele is not the only place. A few minutes up the road from Vaitele-fou are Falelauniu and Tafa’igata. On the other side, you’ve got Nu’u and Aele. Elsewhere, you’ve got places like Moamoa-fou, Palisi-uta and many other dots of new settlements where people have moved to, or been forced to move to.

On east Upolu, we have Vailele-uta and nearby areas. But then you don’t have to go far from Apia to look for places like this. Take a look at Taufusi, Sogi, some parts of Lalovaea and inner Fugalei for example.

They are a sad sight. All these places share the same problems and high on the list are unemployment, high crime rate and they are rapidly becoming over populated. Needless to say, poverty will become an issue, if it’s not already a problem.

We’re not just talking about poverty of food; we’re also talking about poverty of opportunities. Which is why La’aloa is keen to understand why “the government is turning a blind eye” to it. It’s a valid question. The answer, however, is complex. Say what you like but there is nothing being done by the government to really combat the issue of poverty. This is because in the eyes of the leaders of this country today, poverty just does not exist.

Which in a way is true. After all, no one has died in Samoa because of starvation yet. So our Government leaders choose to turn a blind eye.

Instead, they’re more interested to invest in concrete blocks so the birds on the trees and the clouds can sing their praises day and night while they go about their business.

Meanwhile, families living next to these concrete monsters – like the people of Sogi and Fugalei living next to the T.A.T.T.E. building – are yearning for help.

They are dying a slow death since their suffering has been ignored amidst the fascination to turn their neighbourhoods into the new concrete capital of the Pacific. Running amok around these buildings are beggars and young children asking people and visitors for money.

Nearby able-bodied men, who are unemployed and have nothing better to do, turn to a life of crime to keep up with the fast-paced world. That’s why they would beat anyone and everyone simply for a few gold coins and their mobile phone. They would break into any store to steal elegi and a few pounds of rice for their evening meal.

Is anyone paying attention? Maybe, maybe not! Who wants to think about poverty when you can enjoy the luxurious life? Who wants to worry about people going hungry when you’ve got a fridge full of all the expensive meat from around the world?

Now think about the future, think about Samoa in five years time. Think about these hotbeds of social chaos in 10, 20, 50 years time? What do you see?

If our opinion is sought, I’m afraid we see nothing but poverty, judging from what we see. It’s because our leaders of today have ignored the issue so much to the point they have failed to prepare people for what is up ahead.

That is why the interest shown by the young La’aloa was wonderfully refreshing. 

At the time, it was inspiring to know that even amidst so much political hogwash being pushed out to brainwash our people, there are young people out there who have learnt to see beyond the rubbish, identify the real issues and see into the future. That gave me hope. It still does.

Hope by the way is something we should always believe in. It is something we should always cling to because without it, we lose our way and we get bogged down so much by the problems of today that we forget to enjoy our blessings.

Have a restful Sunday Samoa, God bless!

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