Boarding the plane after a week delay.
I’ll start this by admitting this blog has been neglected for too long. I can remember I was about to post a blog about Cyclone Evan’s approach into Samoa on December 13, 2012, when the internet crashed in Apia, just hours before that historic storm devastated parts of that country. Much has happened since then, and although I have since left Samoa and returned to the United States, I want to add a pulse to this blog again. There is still so many things to share and reflect on about the Samoan culture, its people and traditions.
Having lived there for nearly three years, I found that it became expensive and time consuming to try and update blog posts with quality writing, but now that I have had some months away and time to reflect once again on where I’ve been, what I’ve done and how I’ve changed, I feel it’s important to share more stories that I believe are worth telling.
Therefore, I am setting the goal to write at least two blogs a week, at least until I feel I have exhausted all I can. Some blogs may be longer, while others just a short bit, but my goal is two! I invite you to continue reading about Samoa and the people and places that make that country so amazing!
I want to dedicate the rest of this blog post to providing a follow up on Saulo, Milo and Neueli’s trip to the United States over the Christmas holiday last year.
Our faith and patience were tested late last year when Cyclone Evan bore down on Samoa. After months of paperwork and fundraising and the demanding task of obtaining visas for all three boys, we were all ready to leave the country together on December 15th when our plans were altered by the wild winds of the South Pacific.
Cyclone Evan did lots of damage, but most of that damage was felt on the eastern portions of Upolu, the very location of the boys’ village. After the Cyclone skirted off the shores of a fragile Samoa, the true faith of its people shone. Perhaps that faith was seen the best in the three young men I was about to take to America: Milo, Saulo and Neueli.
Upon arriving at their house following the Cyclone, I was moved with emotion to see Milo’s family had lost their entire house. Saulo’s family had lost their roof. And although Neueli’s house wasn’t damaged, he clearly was shaken by what he had lived through. Not knowing when our canceled flight would be rescheduled, I decided to take Saulo, Milo and Neueli with me that day back to my house which was closer to the airport. Their faith in God and their family was evident when they each told me on their own that they still wanted to travel to the United States, even though their houses had been damaged or destroyed. I told them how proud I was and that I don’t think I would have been able to do the same.
Our flight ended up being rescheduled a week later and we flew back to Chicago just in time for Christmas, arriving on December 22nd.
I could spend another 50 blogs just writing about their experiences and activities while in the United States for those five weeks, but instead I will refer you to the blog for the program (empowersamoayouth.blogspot.com) which many of you have read and are up-to-date with. That gives a more detailed account of their trip along with videos.
For this space, I’ll simply say it was such a joy for them to be able to visit and learn. They grew so much and I can see how it changed them to become more confident and more outgoing. When they returned to Samoa they shared their experiences with kids in their village and showed pictures as well. With the help of my Peace Corps friend Lilli and her husband David, they taught the kids how to play the American game of baseball with a bat and ball I had sent back with them.
Also, before we left for the United States, I had a friend who is a language instructor from the Peace Corps office give them an interview in English and record their scores. Following their trip they met with the instructor again for a similar interview, but asking them questions about their trip. She was very impressed by their improvements and by their confidence levels. Milo went from a 47% to a 71%, Neueli from a 38% to a 70% and Saulo from a 92% to 100%! All three of them accomplished so much!
I will end this blog by saying how proud I am of Saulo, Milo and Neueli and all they accomplished. They left their families at a very difficult time to travel 7,000 miles to a new country for the first time. They did something that most in their country don’t have the opportunity to do, nor even kids their age in the United States! They are going to turn out to be great leaders in their villages, churches and families and in the end, that is what the whole program was about, changing their lives to help change other Samoan’s lives in the future!
I’m trying to construct a flow chart diagram to illustrate all those people who helped play a role in making their trip possible. Perhaps I will share it on this blog when I am able to count everyone. However, I do know that without the help of so many others, and the good gifts that God gave to us throughout the whole process, nothing would have been possible. Thank you to all, and I look forward to writing more about our wonderful Samoa in the weeks and months to come!
After their first Interview in December.
Trees that washed down the river to the bridge near Aggie Grey's.
The famous Pulu trees fell down along Beach Rd. in Apia.
Visiting the John Hancock Building in Chicago!
Visiting with their new friends in the 5th grade here in the U.S.A.