Family tracing group's agony and ecstasy
Finding and connecting long lost families is the purpose of the newly formed not-for-profit organisation, Discovery Aiga Collection (D.A.C.) but the results of their work often deliver mixed results for their clients.
What started out as a personal mission for locating lost family members has now turned into a full-time service for its co-founder, Tuaopepe Afiona Faumuina and his sister, Tagivale Schwenke from Gagaifo Lefaga.
She said it is something she's done for many years, at their own expense, but a growing number of requests for the service spurred them to form the organisation.
Speaking to the Samoa Observer, Tuaopepe said it is amazing how many people try to trace their lost roots after being adopted to families to whom they are biologically not related or families overseas who have lost contact with local relatives for many years.
The organisation already has established connections in Samoa, American Samoa, Utah in the United States, and New Zealand.
"What we do is search our own roots, we also find a lot of people who are tapping into us who need the help in searching their families locally, and I'm talking about the generation who have never been to Samoa," she said.
Asked about her experience in tracing family genealogies, Tuaopepe said reuniting families is always rewarding but it isn't always a happy ending for some families: all cases are unique.
She recalled a case of a family of a woman - "Sina" - who had come to track her mother’s Samoan family which Tuaopepe traced to Saleimoa.
Tuaopepe said an elderly man in his 80s cried when he was asked about his relation to Sina's mother, saying “Sina” was his youngest sister who was taken up for adoption as a baby, and whom he thought had died.
The elderly man's message for his long lost youngest sister was relayed to Sina the next day with promises “Sina” would visit Saleimoa. A few years later, Tuaopepe visited the elderly man again only to find out that he had died without “Sina” ever reconnecting with him.
"I guess she was just curious and wanted to find out the truth about her mother’s family and never made it to meet the old man ... strange but at least we had done our task," she said.
Tuaopepe also told of a sad reunion of a father and son who was discovered in American Samoa. What started out as a nightmare for a father turned out to be a reality when his son was traced to a grave.
"It was a sad reunion, in which she only found out that his son had passed when she arrived in Pago Pago. However, the good thing is, she was able to connect and meet his son's wife and grandchildren,” she said.
Tuaopepe said the organisation would allow many more members involved in the service, to speed up the processes of the growing number of cases.
She also noted that as an organisation, it is easier to tap into funds to assist in funding that assists with the solving of the cases.
"There are so many hidden things amongst families - most of which are left unresolved. And as the older generation starts to leave, their children and younger children are the ones who are usually burdened and this is why we want to provide this service," said Tuaopepe.