A healthy respect for the people of Samoa


POSTED: Friday, June 26, 2009

Ta'ase Faumui, June Jones, Greg McMackin, Jeff Reinebold, Jesse Sapolu, Samson Satele, Craig Stutzmann, Ma'a Tanuvasa, Jack Thompson, Tony Tuioti.

Two-and-a-half tons of star power crowded the stage at the news conference yesterday at the airport. This was the football component of the American Samoa Football Academy & Medical Mission. This was the drawing power.

Now that we have your attention, look off to the side. Meet the unsung heroes of this undertaking—the people in this delegation who will provide the most long-lasting positive effect on the people of American Samoa.

Anita Ciarlieglio, Robert Esteban, Francisco Garcia, Scott Holuby, Carolyn Ma, Jessica Munoz, Daniel Nabas, Ellie Taft-Reinebold, Marci Tapusoa, Kelli Te'o. These doctors, nurses, social workers and students won't show anyone how to block and tackle.

They'll merely teach others how to save lives.

JACK THOMPSON, “;The Throwin' Samoan,”; noted the incredible statistic that a male from American Samoa is 40 times more likely to play in the NFL than a non-Samoan American.

But the health care stats aren't so good. Jones pointed out some of them. The more cynical among you will call this a glorified football recruiting trip. But $400,000 in medical supplies and services and the fact that this is the second annual venture speak otherwise of the June Jones Foundation.

Many college coaches love the players of Samoa. Jones and the rest of this delegation are proving they love the people of Samoa.

“;This is all about going one step further,”; said Mufi Hannemann, the Honolulu mayor who is of Samoan ancestry. “;Don't just look at us at (Samoans) as athletes who can add to your win-loss record. Look at us as people.”;

IT IS a meaningful trip for all, but especially sisters Marci Tapusoa, a pediatric critical care nurse at Kapiolani, and Kelli Te'o, a social worker at Kahuku High School.

“;We're proud of our background, and we want to do what we can,”; Tapusoa said.

People on the mainland know of Samoans as star football players.

“;But that's just the handful who gets out,”; Tapusoa said.

They don't see the kids critically ill from post-strep infections. “;We've coded a few,”; she said, hospitalese for they died.

Respect for family elders is among the positive traits in Polynesian culture. But this is often turned on its head when an abused child is victimized by a code of silence. This is an area Te'o will address. “;It crosses all borders, and there's a mentality limiting who children can speak out to.”;

The women tear up as they speak of the lack of programs for prevention and treatment.

“;They're under our flag, and they should have every advantage that we have, but they don't. And that is wrong,”; Taft-Reinebold said. “;This is not just an empty promise. It's our second visit. Throughout the year we send supplies and we're on the phone with them.

“;Our goal is to continue to make a difference,”; she added.