For Village Voice families, unexpected help from afar
Two Savai'i families featured in the Samoa Observer's Village voice received water tanks thanks to the generosity of a Samoan businesswoman working in the United States.
The Samoa Observer's regular Sunday Village Voice column highlights the struggles of families throughout Samoa, offering readers a chance to help them.
Virginia Toalepai, the founder and operator of the Nevada company World Wide Safety, told the Samoa Observer that when she saw the families' stories she was moved to help them.
"One of the five goals I [had] on my vision board seven years ago, was the ability to give back and to open opportunities for my Samoan community so they can rise to a better platform, a better future, more jobs and simply just having life’s essentials," she said after the tanks were delivered to the Savai'i families.
"I will always cherish my upbringing and the discipline that taught me to understand the hardships [of] many walks of life.
"These two families in Savai'i are just the beginning of my journey to serve, to give back, to make a difference, and to show that no matter how little we have, we can make this world a better place for all of us.
"To my country, to my people, I pray that we all come together and lend a hand even if it's just a simple act of kindness.
"May God bless these two families and all those who are in need of help at this time."
Neither of the two Savai'i families featured in the Village Voice column last month had access to water and electricity.
Now they are starting off a new year without any longer having to walk to collect water for their families.
"This is a huge blessing for me and my wife," Tavita Seve Panapa from Sasina told the Samoa Observer, after receiving their water tank.
"I didn't expect this to happen, especially since it was not that long ago when you came to interview me. But I want to take this opportunity to thank the kind generosity of Ms. Virginia who donated and paid for this water tank for us.
"We needed this but do not have the money to get one as we are still developing our family. But from the bottom of our hearts, we want to thank the good samaritan who donated this for us.
"We don't have the means to pay back her kindness, but we pray and hope that our good Lord continues to bless her and her family and guide her and her good heart."
The second family from Samalaeulu was similarly overwhelmed with gratitude.
"I am speechless," said Aoto'a Etuale from Samalaeulu.
"I am surprised and I don't have the proper words to explain how I feel.
"My husband is at work, and I am sure he will be surprised but happy to come home and find that we have a big water tank to store water for us."
When the Samoa Observer asked Aoto'a in December to explain how they collect water for their family of four, she said: "Sometimes, if we have enough money, we pay for a car to help us carry our buckets of water from the other side to our house.
"But when we don't have enough money, we send my husband to collect water for us and he walks with his buckets all the way to our house. However, God has been good to us lately. As it has been raining the past few days and weeks. So we were able to collect water and store water from the rain."
But that is going to change.
"This is what we really wanted and we prayed hard for this and now that it has finally happened, we are so grateful,” she said.
"There were other organisations who came to us and said they were interested in helping us out to get water tanks and other assistance, but we never got to hear from them.
"So I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Samoa Observer newspaper for sharing our story. Most importantly, I want to thank Ms. Toalepai for her kind heart.”