U.S.P. students to spend Christmas on campus

University students from around the region currently enrolled at University of South Pacific (U.S.P.) Alafua Campus will spend the holidays in Samoa during Christmas and New Year due to border closures brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite having to spend their first Christmas Day away from family, those who live on the U.S.P. Alafua campus are making the best of their Christmas in Samoa.

Being with other students who cannot go home is helping Agriculture and Applied Science major Vainga M. Fonua – who is from Olo’ua, Vava’u, in Tonga – cope with loneliness.

Mr. Fonua, 22, said the opportunity to study in Samoa is a blessing and this is the first time he will spend Christmas separated from his parents and siblings.

“Coming all the way from the kingdom to study in Samoa is a blessing for me. Indeed I was looking forward to spending Christmas with my families as usual. All of a sudden the global pandemic of COVID-19 in this year 2020 changed everything,” he said.

“This year is my first time to spend Christmas away from home without my parents and siblings. Honestly I missed home but spending the Christmas together with my brothers and sisters from the islands take away the loneliness in me.”

Agriculture student and graduate Erika Billen, 26, said she is missing home immensely but she has a family at U.S.P.

And she says it is her U.S. P. family that is making this Christmas bright.

“We are missing home immensely. However, we formed our own little family here in Alafua campus from Polynesians to Melanesians and Micronesians," said Ms. Billen.

"Personally, I felt like it was going to be difficult being out here for the first time during Christmas."

She plans to attend Christmas Mass at the Catholic Church in Vaivase.

Agriculture and Applied Science major, Funaki Malohi Mapapalangi, 26, who is from Malapo, Tongatapu in Tonga also misses home.

“I came all the way to Alafua to look for a brighter future and at the same time carrying around the spirit that we are Polynesians and what most adults call ‘Tokouso’…I’m fine although I miss home because it’s my first Christmas without my family,” Ms. Mapapalangi said.

“But luckily I have brothers and sisters around Alafua campus and it feels like home. I don’t have plans at the moment but waiting for my exam results to be out before I make plans for Christmas. I guess my plans are to put a smile on my face and the faces of my family in Tonga and a trip around Samoa with my Alafua brothers and sisters.”

The three are finding ways to give back to the community and share the spirit of Christmas they bring from Tonga and Micronesia.

A donation of food and essentials was gifted to the three of them and all the residential students who are in Samoa for the Christmas season.

The residential students, in turn, gave their gifts to the Brown Girl Woke organisation’s Christmas Drive.

“Residential students are fortunate to be blessed by the U.S.P. football team with food and we are thankful because Christmas is all about the spirit of giving,” said Mr. Fonua.

“Giving donations to the B.G.W. was a wise decision because they are blessed so they want to be a blessing to the less fortunate. Indeed Christmas season is all about the spirit of giving.”

Ms. Billen said God definitely had a hand in guiding their men to secure a top placing in a recent football tournament hosted by Football Federation Samoa (F.S.S.). U.S.P. finished in second place.

“Since we have had the chance to give back to the communities that are faced with the greater issues of not having enough food or supplies during the holidays, it felt like God surely had a hand in guiding our skilled players into victory and in warming our hearts to give to struggling families,” she added. 

“While this remains our home for now, our community wanted to make small contributions to the Brown Girl Woke organization’s Christmas operations from the football team’s winnings to make sure that people here have what they need…it is Christmas after all.”

Ms. Mapapalangi added that they donated to B.G.W. “because we love to share.”

“We donated to B.G.W. because we love to share what we have in our little pockets to show our gratitude to the communities. I would like to thank the soccer team for their love and support. We truly appreciate it. May you all have a Happy Merry Christmas!”

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