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Tuesday, March 28, 2000

Samoans to
look for some

A conference this weekend
aims to erase negative images
of their people in Hawaii

By Susan Kreifels


Samoans, Loia Fiaui believes, are the most misunderstood people in Hawaii.

Being generally large people is enough to create a negative image in the community, he says, not even considering crime statistics.

"Samoans are at the bottom of the education ladder," Fiaui said. "There are more Samoans in jail than in college or university. That is a very bleak statistic."

"We are not violent people," said Fiaui, an ethno-cultural specialist at the state Department of Health. "We are big people with big, loving hearts. People don't know us very well."

To alleviate such misunderstandings and promote the status of Samoans, Fiaui is chairing a conference this weekend called "FaaSamoa 2000 -- Honoring the Past and Embracing the Future." Organizers expect 1,000 local Samoans and other community members to attend the conference at Leeward Community College on Friday and Saturday.

Fiaui's key concern is education, which will lead to better jobs and social status. Samoans are "looking for access, for people who might want to help the community in terms of providing us with leads" to better education and jobs.

State Rep. Nestor Garcia, who's in charge of fund-raising for the conference, said he and Fiaui met at a seminar Garcia sponsored on prisons. Fiaui was frustrated by what he believed was a lack of programs for incarcerated Samoans.

Speakers will include the governor of American Samoa and the minister of education from Samoa (formerly Western Samoa), plus representatives from the state Department of Education, universities and colleges, law enforcers, health and social services and businesses. Speakers , also will discuss cultural and family values. The first such conference was held here in 1997.

Organizers expect half of the participants to be Samoan youths. A "Conference within a Conference" will offer them a look at careers, mentoring, technology, arts, and cultural appreciation. For example, professors from Leeward Community College will provide hands-on access to computers.

Those who want to contribute money or in-kind services can contact Garcia at 586-8490.

Celebrating Samoans

Bullet What: "FaaSamoa 2000 -- Honoring the Past and Embracing the Future."
Bullet Where: Leeward Community College
Bullet When: Friday and Saturday
Bullet Admission: Open to the public, free
Bullet Information: 455-0688

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