Overseas Samoans to "Future Proof" the country

Samoans in Australia are asking for just one dollar a week to help their homeland prosper amidst a tragic economic downturn in the nation caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Ioritana Faaiuaso is the founder of Future Proof Samoa, a campaign launched on Sunday that hopes to raise funds from the global Samoan diaspora of around 650,000 people.

He said if all those people gave just one dollar a week, he and his partners could raise around AUD$33 million (T$60.88 million) a year.

“I think it will change lives tremendously,” he said.

“Families that live rurally that can’t afford to come into town for medical needs, we are thinking of them. Those finding it hard to find work, we are thinking of them. They are kind of people our heart is for.”

Mr. Faaiuaso, who has worked for 12 years in construction, said his idea first began around three years ago with a dream to build a construction apprenticeship scheme for Samoa to help young people grow their careers and maybe even become independent contractors.

Two years later, the vision for the “one dollar campaign” arrived, which opened up opportunities to expand that idea to something more comprehensive.

The project is managed by Mr. Faaiusaso, Hosanna Finau, David Finau, Maryanne Hutchinson and Myka Stanley. Except for Mr. Stanley, the group are all in Melbourne and have been living under lockdown conditions until very recently.

They have been developing Future Proof Samoa together entirely over video conferencing meetings, and are yet to get together to celebrate their launch on Sunday.

Today, Future Proof Samoa’s concept is split into three parts: 40 per cent of proceeds are to be directed to health coverage for individuals seeking private treatment, 30 per cent to be split among three non-profit organisations, and 20 per cent towards building that apprenticeship scheme.

The final 10 per cent is for operations.

“One dollar a week is less than a coffee here in Australia so if people can sacrifice a coffee once a week they are playing their role in future-proofing their families or friends and future generations to come in Samoa,” Mr. Faaiuaso said.

The group has partnered with Brown Girl Woke, Talofa Kids, and Soul Talk, which at the end of November can expect their first donation from the campaign.

In just two days, Future Proof Samoa has raised AUD$700 (T$1,291) pledged in either weekly $1 payments or one-off payments for an entire year or more.

“There are people who are not Samoan donating too, everyone’s generosity has been well accepted on our end,” the founder said.

“For the next five months, we’ll donate all of it to the non-profit organisations and slowly make arrangements to make communications with medical clinics and hopefully training facilities in Samoa to partner up with.”

The apprenticeship programme should be offering New Zealand or Australian standard certifications,he added.

Their biggest inspiration for the project is to help rural families in Samoa uplift themselves and become independent, particularly independent from their overseas-based families.

Mr. Faaiuaso, who is based in Melbourne along with the other members of his team, said remittances are becoming too expensive for overseas families to keep up with.

“Our sole heart is for the families in the rural areas to help them get off their feet,” he said.

“People are struggling to maintain their families [overseas] but also their families in Samoa. We hope that over time, Samoa will become a self-sustained country, where they can upskill themselves, build infrastructure on their own, and all we have to do from outside is donate $1 a week to help that.

“I guess the only thing Samoans from outside Samoa will really need to worry about financially is the occasional wedding or funeral that pops up but in regards to day to day living, I hope that stops with what we are doing.”

According to 2016 figures, there are 75,755 people in Australia with Samoan ancestry. Of those, 24,017 said they were born in Samoa.

The 2018 census revealed there are 182,721 Samoans living in New Zealand, which is an increase of 26.8 per cent on the previous census in 2013.

In the United States of America there are 204,000 Samoan people, according to 2019 estimates, and approximately 1,100 in Canada (based on 2016 census data). 

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