A special 21st birthday celebration for Ropeti

A milestone birthday was celebrated in Sataua, Savaii last Saturday with Ropeti Meaole Naea ringing in his 21st birthday amongst family and friends.

Ropeti suffers from epilepsy amongst other developmental challenges he has endured throughout his life. His birthday was marked with a thanksgiving church service, where his family and close-knit community came together to give thanks to God for the gift of life and love.

The church service was led by Rev. Toese Tui’a of the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa, who spoke of the love of families in their words and actions, and in treating everyone the same, no matter their abilities or disabilities.

Ropeti’s mother, Sili’a Meaole spoke to the Samoa Observer and said it was not easy to raise him.

“It was very hard, because of his situation and his condition. He was born on 8 May 2000 with a cleft palate, and he had four medical operations for his mouth.

“The four operations were successful, so he can eat soft foods and drink, but the epilepsy is very hard. His condition of uncontrollable seizures, where his body jerks and shakes and he would collapse. It was nerve-wracking as we tried to raise him from a young age.”

The birthday celebration was bittersweet, as Sili’a’s parents, who adopted Ropeti as a baby, had both passed away.

“This celebration is not only to thank God for his loving protection, but also to remember my parents.

“Luluvita, my mother, was a nurse and she looked after Ropeti when he was born sick, and we helped and supported him in order for him to live. My parents spoke to his biological mother and we agreed to do everything we could to save him.

“Now he’s turning 21 and we do everything as we normally would. We offer him his key and celebrate this day.

Sili’a said that when her mother passed away in 2018, she became responsible for Ropeti.

“By looking after him and giving him his medications. He takes medication to help him with his seizures and nerve pain, and to protect his brain.”

Aleluia Meaole, brother to Sili’a, shared his gratitude for God answering their prayers as they tried to care for and protect Ropeti.

“He is very hard to look after because he gets angry easily, causing him to shake which is very strong and can be dangerous.

“So his 21st birthday is to make him happy, feel special and enjoy his day.

“We want to acknowledge the work of doctors and nurses who helped to treat him, and the support from Senese and Nuanua o le Alofa.”

Senese is a school that supports the inclusion of children with disabilities in to regular schools; Nuanua o le Alofa is an organisation that advocates for the rights and equal opportunities for people with disabilities. Both organisations confirmed that they offer help and support in activities and during their visitations with Ropeti.

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