The best of Samoans at the worst of times
This much cannot be denied. The response from Samoans to the measles crisis is nothing short of remarkable.
While Samoa’s international partners and donor countries have all responded positively and passionately to Samoa’s hour of need, the effort has been matched if not bettered by Samoans in Samoa and all over the world, who have stepped forward to do whatever they can to help.
From the moment this measles epidemic started dominating the news up until now, Samoans in Samoa and all over the world have been mobilising themselves, their communities wherever they are to help.
It’s impossible to mention every individual effort that has been and continues to be made in this column.
What we can say is that from Samoan sports stars who have used their pulling power, community leaders to ordinary Samoans, no one has been sitting around.
This is perhaps one of the most extraordinary and heartwarming aspects about what has been happening.
It speaks volumes about the kind of people we are. While we disagree on a few things here and there, when it comes to matters of the heart such as what is happening in Samoa today, we put everything aside and we come together for the sake of our families and our country.
This is what defines us as Samoans. This is what makes us unique, it sets us apart from the rest. It is the fact that no matter where a Samoan resides in the world, they open their window to look towards Apia.
And where, when they are needed, they rise up and find the best of themselves to help. We have seen this generosity, loving-kindness being displayed so affectionately time and time again.
As a country vulnerable to natural disasters, we are used to responding to Mother Nature’s wrath. And every time we have seen Samoans rise to the occasion with love, passion and pride.
The response to the measles crisis has been no exception.
Not a day goes by without a donation of some sort being made to the National Emergency Operation Centre (N.E.O.C.), health officials or directly to the families of the victims.
From groups, churches, businesses down to the ordinary Samoan who has turned up to cut onions and cabbages to serve soup for patients and health workers, we have seen the best of humankind in these troubled times. It’s wonderfully inspiring; it’s the stuff that keeps us going, even though we don’t feel like going anymore.
The death toll, which now stands at 71, is devastating. Many questions remain unanswered about how this was allowed to happen.
But in times like this when we are grasping at straws to try and find something uplifting and positive as an anchor, sometimes we don’t need to look far. All we have to do is look at our own people, look at ourselves.
It must be said that Samoans should be proud of the way they have responded. From health workers, fundraisers to everyone, take a bow. You have shown the best of Samoa at the worst of times.
Look at the effort that has been made to mobilise 40 Samoan doctors who will work in Samoa from next week until March next year to help. This is astonishing; it is probably the first time this has been done.
The women behind the initiative are Associate Professor Sopoaga and Leota Dr. Lisi Petaia, the President, Pacific Islands Mental Health Professionals Association NZ. Associate Professor Sopoaga summed it up beautifully.
“For now, the priority is for acute care and for clinicians from outside Samoa to relieve their local colleagues so they can rest and be with their family and loved ones around the Christmas period,” she said. “We are all in this together.”
Indeed we are. On the front page of the newspaper you are reading, one of the most influential Samoans in former world heavyweight champion, Lupesoliai Joseph Parker, has returned to help.
“A lot of people have stayed away, cancelled their flights…, but I don’t see it as a big problem, and that’s why I’m here with my family and my kids," he said.
“We feel it’s important to come back at this time and to show our support. It’s very sad, but we’re here to show our support. It’s not a scary place to come to, just because there’s measles doesn’t mean it’s a red zone."
Lupesoliai’s message to the world could not have come at a better time.
On top of the tragedy of measles, tourism, businesses and the economy of this country is in for an extremely tough time. The losses have already been estimated to be in the millions. In cannot get any worse than that.
This is why the heartfelt and passionate response from Samoans – wherever they are – is so critical. We want to say thank you. Fa’afetai, fa’afetai, fa’afetai tele lava!
Now the only one we haven’t heard from is perhaps the most influential Samoan there is on the global stage. Imagine if Seiuli Dwayne Johnson were to begin a campaign to help Samoa. With his pulling power, he can sure move mountains.
Have a safe Thursday Samoa, God bless!