PEOPLE OF 2020: Brown Girl Woke

Reaching out to Samoa’s less well-to-do families is a charter of the non-profit organisation Brown Girl Woke (B.G.W.) and it continues to expand its footprint despite the challenges.

Consequently, more families on both Upolu and Savai’i continue to benefit from the non-government organisation’s community-focused donations, says the 30-year-old founder of the BGW, Maluselu Doris Tulifau.

Since March this year 700 families have received food supplies, water and even electricity which came courtesy of various donors throughout this year.

Maluselu, who hails from Vaigaga, Lepa and Malie, considers herself lucky as her partnership with various organisations abroad has enabled the BGW to become a transit point for donated goods.

“I am so lucky because of my partnerships with overseas organisations and that they trust me. I can just post and say that there is a family that needs a water tank and then I get five when I check my email,” she told the Samoa Observer. “It has been a blessing, [donors] families do want to know who they are investing in and how much of a need for water there is.

“But some don’t know that there are people in Samoa that need water – even some of the students in universities – didn’t know that there are villages that don’t have access to water supply.”

Towards the backend of 2019, at the height of the measles epidemic that later claimed 83 lives, Maluselu said families’ lack of access to clean water made hygiene a factor during the outbreak.

“During the measles, there were a lot of families that lost children who didn’t have electricity and clean water supply – hygiene was a huge factor to it all.

“I know money is the root of evil to everything, that’s why I ask them to invest in water tanks or in electricity instead of just sending money, because we really don’t know where that money is going to but water tanks can take care of the whole family.

“I think the biggest pallet we received, I was busy but when the measles hit everything stopped and you just focused on one thing.”

Thanks to her networking with people in America who wanted to send aid to someone they trusted, boxes were sent filled with donated supplies and included supplies such as face masks.

“People were sending money and we almost had $25,000 and we gave $300 to almost at least 80 families and if we couldn’t get to those families, we donated to the A.S.A. Foundation because they were doing it.

“During that time, I only had five of my students with me because I couldn’t go ask a family for their 19 or 29-year-old during the measles which was affecting everybody.”

Samoan reality TV stars Kalani and Asuelu are also big fans of the work that BGW is doing in Samoa, added Maluselu.

“Kalani and Asuelu are huge supporters of Brown Girl Woke as well, so that helped a lot. I remember waking up to 2000 new followers on my Instagram and then 20 donations and  wondered why am I getting donations, but it was because Kalani did a post and that also helps.

“A lot of people are using their platforms to help Samoa and making sure for myself that I was being honest because if I mess it up, I mess it up for everyone else that are non-profits or anybody that comes back to Samoa.

“I mean people are not going to trust that so I always have that always in my mind that you have to be consistent and transparent, because it’s not only you that they are going to follow and you’re a youth leader, we’re so tired of getting lied to, we’re so tired of not understanding and mistrust.”

Currently, the B.G.W. has 70 active members with most of them university students, though Maluselu revealed they had a school programme, which had to be discontinued due to the state of emergency (S.O.E.) orders. 

“But that’s the goal to continue after school programmes because I believe in mentorship, where I have the university students go to the after school programmes and tutor them,” she added. “We don’t have extracurricular programmes in Samoa so starting that back up next year, trying to make sure that we have a center so like applying to grants to get a center.”

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