Mother in awe of son who paid siblings' school fees

Sixteen-year-old Suliveta Slade of Leone is the jewel in his mother’s crown, literally assisting her to pay off his 13 siblings’ school fees over the last eight years working as a street vendor.

Salome Paulo told the Samoa Observer in an interview that her son brings inspiration and energy to their family, thanks to his conviction to help his siblings and family, even at the expense of his own education when he is out selling.

“He’s the only one I’m comfortable to allow to be a vendor because I have trust in him, and I often feel sorry for him, because he spent his childhood paying for the school fees of his siblings from his earnings from street vending,” she said.

Unlike her 13 other children, Mrs Paulo said her son is happy being a street vendor, in order to earn money to ensure his siblings are in school. 

And she acknowledged the challenges that street vendors face when plying their trade.

For Mr Slade, street vending has been a part of his life for the last eight years, he said in an interview with the Samoa Observer.

“Street vending has shaped me up to the boy I am today and without street vending, I wouldn’t be able to say I’m proud of my past,” he said.

“For most of my childhood, street vending was the only thing my life revolved around and I was proud of it because I knew that it helped my parents so much, especially in putting my siblings to school.

“Too often we rely on our parents to provide for us, especially during our childhood but that wasn’t the case for me, and I’m proud I took a different path in my childhood thanks to street vending.”

Asked about her son’s surname and where it came from, Mrs. Paulo said it originated from a foreign couple that had adopted her son.

She said he was supposed to travel overseas to meet up with them but the COVID-19 global pandemic led to the shutdown of international travel and the closure of Samoa’s border.

“As the saying goes, children that are honest and hardworking get paid off for the effort and though I’ll miss my son, I believe he will have a brighter future overseas and he will also help out with our family in the future for sure, so I’m very proud of him,” Mrs. Paulo added.

And when that day comes when the borders open and international flights resume, Mr Slade will make that next step in his life, but for now it is business as usual for him in life as a street vendor.

These days he only sells items in the evening after attending classes at Vaimauga College and all of Saturday. 

Mr Slade knows the sacrifices that one has to make for the betterment of his siblings and he hopes his peers can learn from his story and not rely too much on their parents.

“By telling my story, I hope all the children of Samoa learn that relying on our parents can always be the other way around,” he said.

“If you know your parents are going through so much, just to provide for us, we should be their next best alternative.

“No parent would force their children to do these things because they love us, but for us, we have to be there for them and become their right hand.

“Happy White Sunday to all the children of Samoa and may you all find peace and joy in your families.”

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