By James Kneubuhl, ASCC Press Officer
Members of the Student Association for Fa’asamoa (SAFF), under the aegis of the Samoan Studies Institute at the American Samoa Community College (ASCC), will depart this weekend to spend seven days in the Independent State of Samoa, where they will tour historical and cultural sites and also give several performances. Their itinerary will take them to locations such as the National University of Samoa, the Parliament and Courthouse at Mulinu’u, the Tuaefu Museum and even the island of Manono before their visit culminates with their participation in the Samoa Flag Day Parade on Saturday, June 1st.
“This trip will give the SAFF students a wide overview of Samoa’s unique blend of the modern and the traditional,” said Samoan Studies Director Okenaisa Fauolo-Manila, who will accompany the students. “They’ve worked hard all semester and have done an exemplary job of representing their Samoan heritage. They’ve bonded as a group, and this will provide the participating students who graduated this semester with a memorable experience to round off their time with the SAFF.” To give the visit a clear educational focus, Fauolo-Manila has defined a number of goals for the students which they will reflect upon in their post-trip evaluations. These goals include the appreciation of the Samoan values of respect and hospitality, understanding the diversity of a living culture, understanding development issues in fa’asamoa, and applying the traditional skills they have learned in the classroom.
The trip has its genesis in the SAFF participation in the Future Leaders of the Pacific Summit this past February, which brought together students from across the Pacific to share cultural perspectives and discuss regional issues of mutual concern. One guest at the Summit was David Huebner, the Auckland-based US Ambassador to the South Pacific, who subsequently sent the SAFF a letter of appreciation for their contributing to the success of the event by performing the ava ceremony and, later, Samoan songs and dances. Another guest who expressed commendations was Tuiatua Tupua Tamasese Efi, Samoa’s Head of State, who offered to host the SAFF for further dialog and cultural sharing should they ever visit his country.
“Tuiatua’s offer gave us a goal to work towards,” said Fauolo-Manila, “and since then the students have maintained a rigorous rehearsal schedule while working to fundraise for their travel.” The SAFF itinerary includes a visit with the Head of State, during which they will perform and make a gift presentation to him. They will also visit and entertain at the Mapuifagalele Home for senior citizens, as they have done locally for the residents of Fatuoaiga/Hope House every Thanksgiving since the formation of the SAFF in 2009.
As a preview of the show they have worked diligently to perfect over the past months, the SAFF gave a special performance in the ASCC Gymnasium this past Saturday to family, friends and College staff. Despite news of the performance circulating beforehand only through word-of-mouth, a fairly large crowd showed up to witness an energetic, enthusiastic and very well-rehearsed set of songs and dances that showcased the talent and dedication of the SAFF members.
On behalf of the Samoan Studies Department and SAFF, Fauolo-Manila expressed her gratitude to the parents and families of all the students participating in the Samoa visit, and to the ASCC administration, faculty and staff, for their support.