Housing help heartwarming in times of trouble and need
Amidst the fascinating political developments in this country last week, a story titled “From shack to shelter for Vailele family” on the front page of the Weekend Observer provided a heartwarming read.
As the impact of the coronavirus pandemic lockdown sets in, more and more people in this nation are suffering from hardship, poverty and lack so that today more than ever, they need all the help they can get.
The family of So’oiupu Tupunai is among them. The Vailele family’s living conditions are not ideal. In fact it’s almost like squatter living and for reasons that are quite obvious.
“My mother and I are both unemployed,” Mr. Tapuna’i said “I depend on our plantation for survival with the help of my siblings from time to time.”
Unemployment is a very common theme for struggling families in Samoa and it’s only going to get worse given the current global economic conditions. And while subsistence farming does help to put food on the table, it’s long shot in an attempt to deal with the cost of living and the money challenges of today.
But there is good news for Mr. Tapuna’i’s family. Thanks to a $1 million Government shelter-building programme, they will soon have a better home. The funding is part of the Government’s second round economic stimulus package in response to the COVID-19 led economic downturn. The Adventist Development Relief Agency (A.D.R.A.) Samoa is overseeing the project operations with T.N. Construction conducting building works.
From what they have told us, Mr. Tupunai’s family is among 170 families living in difficult living conditions – including some featured in the Samoa Observer's Village Voice column – who stand to benefit from the project.
A.D.R.A. Samoa’s Director, Su’a Julia Wallwork, said the project targets families with no income, no electricity or water supply and in cases where there are ten people living in a small shack.
“I think Government’s assistance is very timely especially when the focus is to help Samoa prepare and try and reduce the risks of being impacted with the pandemic that is affecting the world right now,” she said. “We are intervening at the right time to help the vulnerable, to give them a chance to be able to keep the hygiene level reasonable. The levels of vulnerability vary, in some cases; a family is vulnerable because they are isolated from the rest of the community because they don’t have the resources, so they are the ones left behind.”
Well that’s wonderful news. If anything, this is what the Government should prioritise in times like this. It should focus on ensuring the basic needs of Samoans such as food, water and shelter, especially the poor and the most vulnerable, are met.
Today, Mr. Tupunai is a grateful man.
“We thank the Government for assisting vulnerable families in need of help such as my family. It is a blessing that only God can repay, we are immensely thankful,” he said. “The assistance is greatly appreciated because our current dwelling is too small and the roof leaks despite having iron roofing but we have to use logs and stones to keep it intact.
“Samoa is heading into the cyclone season so our new home will be useful during these unpredictable times and especially during heavy rainfall.”
It is delightful to see families like Mr. Tapunai getting the help they deserve.
And today we want to acknowledge with gratitude the effort by the Government and everyone else involved to help these families.
These are difficult and challenging times. There is trouble on the horizon and we need to ensure we all move together as a nation and that no one is left behind. Which is precisely the goal of the Village Voice section in your newspaper set up a few years ago.
It is the Samoa Observer’s desire to use the pages of this newspaper to make a difference. So on Sunday, there are different stories of people with different needs. For example, there are people struggling to make ends meet. Then there are people who are desperate for employment. There are mothers and fathers who harbour great dreams for their children but are hamstrung by the lack of money. There are families without water, houses and electricity. And yes believe it or not, there are people without food who are desperate.
While some of us might take having food, water, money and other items deemed as luxury goods for granted, others are not so lucky. In Samoa today, we see a growing gap between the have and the have nots.
The effort to close that gap, even through a project to solidify the homes of some of these families, should be acknowledged and appreciated.
Should the Government pump more money into it? Absolutely. Millions more. But $1 million tala is a good start, better late than never.
Have a wonderful Sunday Samoa, God bless!