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Pilot project in Samoa aimed at helping kids get out of street vending

Fuimapoao Beth Onesemo-Tuilaepa  [photo: JL]
Helping low-income families meet their needs — “a hand up…”

Apia, SAMOA — “No parent doesn’t love their children, but the daily challenges of raising a family on top of other obligations is one difficult task and low income families tend to find ways to meet these needs and this is the end result, sending their children to sell goods,” said Chief Executive Officer for Youth of the Ministry of Women, Social Community and Development, Fuimapoao Beth Onesemo-Tuilaepa regarding the street kids who are seen scouring Apia selling matches, Q-tips and chips etc. — to get money for their families.

In an interview with Samoa News at her office last week, Fuimapoao said the government is tackling this problem head on and they have come up with some ways to assist these families.

Prior to going into details of the program, Fuimapoao pointed out that not every family is the same and while others are struggling, others are not and so when the issue of street vendors come up, these families are being judged that “they don’t love their children, but these families are doing what they can to the best of their ability.”

She explained that the government is currently working on the “Child Protection and Safety Act” but there are fundamental challenges like this that need to be addressed and that’s the initiative behind the pilot program that’s been implemented to assist these families.

Fuimapoao said that the government can implement laws and enforce them, but if that does happen, would that really help with the core issues at hand, the answer is no, it will probably increase the problem instead of trying to fix it.

The YMWSCD CEO explained their team held a survey and from that, they were able to select the families based on the conditions of their homes, the amount of family members living in one house and other criteria.

“It was also from this survey, we found out that these families are facing land issues, problems that we don’t know about. We chose from the lowest income family we came across and we also considered those families who have ten people living in one small house. We also looked at why the young children were not able to go to school. So we tackled each of the problems we came across — one by one — and we got other agencies involved such as the Ministry of Education, to find ways to assure that these children attend school.”

According to Fuimapoao, 11 families have been selected for this pilot program and they are looking at extending this program to other families but made it clear: “This is a pilot program, so it’s the results that will help solidify the decision whether this program continues or not, but there are intentions to continue this program that will cater directly to the low income families.”

She said they have partnered with United Nations to provide scholarships to the children in the program to attend trade school, such as the Don Bosco Technical Center and Laumua o Punaoa Technical School.

The CEO said $50,000 has been provided to each of the aforementioned schools to not only pay for the tuition of the students, but also funding to hire an instructor and also purchase equipment needed to assist with this program.

“We have already conducted negotiations with these trade schools for the students from the program to have an alternative pathway perhaps they won’t be able to pass other subjects in class such as mathematics and English, but they have other capabilities in trades, and we have ten students already attending under this pilot program.”

For families who don’t have children of age to attend the trade schools, the government has provided training and a small amount of funds to help with plantations, elei printing and sewing so they can start small businesses, and get away from street vending.

She was asked to explaine the concerns about the families in this program — that perhaps they will have the mentality to “depend” solely on this program to provide for their children.

“We have learned from our other programs and that is why we only have 11 families on board for now, but we have a holistic approach on this program, whereas the families have been informed that the government is there to help, but the aim” is for them to stand on their own two feet, Fuimapoao said. “It/s not a hand out — it’s a hand up.”