Sharing Worlds, Changing Lives

The Samoan Youth Empowerment Initiative was founded in June of 2012 as a way to allow Samoan students a chance to develop cross-cultural awareness by traveling to the United States. The program seeks to engage the Samoan students in hands on activities and interaction with Americans with the understanding that Americans will gain just as much in terms of the sharing of cultures.

Our mission is to inspire the youth of Samoa to dream, but more importantly, to act. With a focus on sustainability, we are challenging the students to return to Samoa as bold leaders, active individuals and inspirational partners. They will reach out to share their experiences and then move to act on important issues facing their local communities, churches and families. They are the future of Samoa and we can EMPOWER them!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Finding Samoa in Indiana!

After Sunday Toanai at George & Kathy's
The more time that passes, the more time I have to reflect on how many people were involved in making this program a success. I plan to create a flow chart from one end of the spectrum to the other that shows how many people become connected as a “family” in this amazing experience.

One of the amazing connections led us to two great Samoan families who live in Northern Indiana! Through a family friend, we met Don and Dawn. Dawn is from Samoa and still has many family ties to the country. Last year they both were so excited to hear that Saulo, Milo and Neueli were going to be visiting in the area. They extended a warm invitation right away, asking that we come over for a Samoan toanai (big Sunday feast). We met in mid-January with great excitement! By this point the boys were missing home and to have an opportunity to speak with someone in their native tongue—my Samoan wasn’t cutting it—was a big deal. We were also all missing Samoan food at that point.

However, it wasn’t just Don & Dawn’s family, but another family they know from nearby, George, Kathy and their family. George is from Samoa and met Kathy during her time in American Samoa. They met us at Don & Dawns and the huge Samoan reunion commenced.
When we walked in the door and people started speaking to me in Samoan, I felt this happiness come over me, making me feel like I was back in that country I love so much. That’s when I realized it must have been even more amazing for the boys to be able to speak and hear their own language.

Dawn had prepared a huge Samoan feast with American dishes thrown in too. I never had thought it would be possible to fix some of the dishes that she did here in the States, but it was all amazing. Just as in Samoa, the adults all received their food first and then the kids followed behind. It was a full house and a happy house!

We shared pictures, played cards and watched T.V. Saulo, Milo and Neueli walked around the entire time with huge smiles on their faces. George and Kathy have a large family with lots of teenagers so the boys felt right at home with people their age.
The evening finished up with George and Kathy inviting us over to their house the following Sunday! The boys were very excited to hear this and looked forward to it all week. The following Sunday we did it again at George and Kathy’s and Don and Dawn drove over to join us as well.

There was another huge Samoan feast, this time Kathy having worked mostly in the kitchen. There were games of pool going on and video games. George and Kathy had a bunch of their family over as well so it made for a packed house with lots of laughs and good times.

Before we left, I asked George, Kathy and their family to give some words of wisdom to the boys about how important it is to work hard and not give up on your dreams George is a perfect example of someone who worked hard and decided he wanted something and then worked for it. George grew up in Samoa but then he moved to American Samoa and eventually to the States.

I also asked George’s kids to give words of encouragement to the boys about staying in school, and staying dedicated to their studies. Each of George’s kids said such inspiring words and really spoke from their hearts about what it takes to succeed. I knew the boys were listening and I do believe they will remember what they were told for a long time to come.

Samoan food prepared in Indiana!!

Hanging out and speaking Samoan!

Great friends!

George and Kathy's family giving words of wisdom to the boys.

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