NZ student “humbled” by Savai’i life

About the author:

Tina Mata'afa-Tufele is a Pasifika journalist that has been writing and covering news related to the Samoan experience for over a decade. She's written for Samoa News in American Samoa, (covering news from Hawaii, the U.S.

  • MAKING NEW FRIENDS : Annabelle Jessop enjoying her first visit to Savai’i with new found friends in Safotu.
    MAKING NEW FRIENDS : Annabelle Jessop enjoying her first visit to Savai’i with new found friends in Safotu.

A Samoan student enrolled at Samuel Marsden Collegiate School in Wellington, New Zealand left the island this week greatly impressed by a first time visit to Savai’’i.

“I’ve been to Samoa twice before but only to Upolu and Apia,” said 17-year-old Annabelle Jessop.

“We were just in Savai’i and we were staying in beach fale close to Safotu village and helping the kids out in the church out there.”

Annabelle, Year 13, is one of nine students who represented Marsden in their annual Savai’i trip. 

Her Samoan heritage is from her father Everett Jessop, who served with the Lands and Survey Department as a senior surveyor for many years.

Her mother Michelle, was seconded from New Zealand as a senior officer with the NZ High Commission Office in Apia, where the couple first met.

The pair moved to New Zealand where they started up a family in Wellington. 

Annabelle joined the visiting student group of 11 women, led by the school Chaplain Sera King to Samoa.

For nine years, the private Anglican school in Wellington, which celebrates its 140th anniversary in 2018, has been a partner of the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa in Safotu village. 

In Savai’í, the visitors worked with the children and presented the EFKS Safotu Sunday School with gifts – $2,500 collected from fundraisers that will go toward purchasing furniture for Sunday school program – a table tennis table and a sewing machine plus stationery, a popcorn machine, hot glue guns, old sports uniforms, notebooks and handicraft supplies.

“It was a lot of fun. I really got to bond with the children and really kind of experience what island life is like out there,” said Annabelle .

“I feel like it’s a lot slower-paced than New Zealand which is nice and kind of relaxing but then also it was kind of humble seeing, you know, the differences between our life and theirs.”

She noted: “In New Zealand we have a lot more facilities and everything is kind of a lot more developed than in some areas of the island.”

“Samoa is a really beautiful country. It’s so warm which is nice,” Annabelle told Newsline.

“As a whole it’s kind of like a very relaxed environment which I really love and the people here are just so happy and always just willing to say hello and have a conversation with you which is really lovely too.”

After Year 13, she plans to attend university and major in International Relations or Politics.

The school Chaplain Sera King, chaperoned the young visitors to Samoa for the week-long stay on the big island gave a short background history of the links with Safotu.

“This is the ninth year Samuel Marsden Collegiate has come,” she said. “This time of the year we always come out for 10 days and we have a really strong fellowship with the Sunday school church in Safotu.”

“So we bring resources and we do a lot of fundraising over the year and we’ve managed to raise roughly two and a half thousand for their Sunday school.

“We give them suggestions and they offer up their suggestions on what they would like and it looks like we will be purchasing furniture for them, table tennis table and a sewing machine,” said school teacher Sarah Rees-Moore during at an interview at the Tanoa Tusitala Hotel. 

“It’s amazing. Plus, we bring lots of stationery in our backpacks too. We bought a popcorn machine, hot glue guns, old sports uniforms, lots of felt, scissors, lots craft, notebooks, things like that. Oh, the children, they love it.”

Rees-Moore teaches Te Reo Maori, Science and Mathematics to students in Years 7 and 8 at Marsden. It was her first time in Samoa.

“I’ve never been here before,” she said. “This is my fist time. It’s beautiful, absolutely beautiful. People are amazing. Savai’i is extremely beautiful. I love the villages, I love the slow pace. I love the happiness of the people and the community spirit. There’s a lot to learn from that.”
Rees-Moore said the annual visit is “a real reciprocal event.”

“Our girls come and we learn about your culture and we come away feeling very fulfilled and full in our hearts from the community response out in Savai’i,” she told Newsline.

“This time next year another group of girls will be back with another lot of gifts and fundraising to offer the community. Savai’’i is exceptionally beautiful.”

The Marsden group left the island yesterday, Tuesday, 17 July 2018.