NEW YEAR BLOG: Why I left Le Fetuao Samoan Language Center

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Rydfors Stanford Leti

(JANUARY 1, 2016--HONOLULU)--In this New Year blog I will address a singular point raised in the "Life is a Choice" letter (sobserver.ws/en/29_12_2015/letterstotheeditor/744/Life-is-a-choice.htm) published in the Samoa Observer, written in reply to my initial "Letter from Hawai'i: Samoa deserves better" (sobserver.ws/en/22_12_2015/letterstotheeditor/556/Letter-from-Hawaii-Samoa-deserves-better.htm).

In "Life is a Choice", the writer who identifies his or herself only as "Chicago" demands: "If you can work -- get a job!"

This is my job. I am a journalist. Many problems my children and I have faced in Honolulu stem from my choice to serve others with the writing gift I've been given by our Almighty God. My work yields no income but it reveals truth. It brings light to an entire people who have long been left in the dark. I myself, have walked in the dark. I've stumbled, fallen, made major mistakes but it was only to bring others into the light. There is no better way to usher in this New Year than with truth and light.

POVERTY, SOCIAL MEDIA, EDUCATION AND WORK

I've held two paid "jobs" here at the same organization since I left the Samoa News newsroom in 2010. I didn't ask for them nor did I look for them, rather the work found me. Since I've left that non-profit organization, I've received numerous inquiries which seek to know why I am no longer there. Inquiries drive this field of journalism. Good journalists answer the inquiries.

A question sent to me via Facebook message asks: "What happened to the school?" Others inquired in person. A lot happened at the school.

The truth is that I left Le Fetuao Samoan Language Center when I discovered that the founder's idea of professionalism in regard to ethics, accountability and transparency were not in line with my own. The A'oga Samoa is a federally-funded project which operates out of Island Family Christian Church on Salt Lake Boulevard. Its office (when I worked there) is located at the director's home on Ala Ilima Street in Salt Lake. The founder/director's name is Elisapeta Tu'upo-Alaimaleata, former employee at the University of Hawai'i and the American Samoa Department of Education.

My involvement at the school began with volunteering, lending my support during events like Samoan Language Week. I went to the school with a friend of mine on the day NFL Seahawks Defensive End Michael Bennett visited the school with his family. Bennett's wife is part-Samoan. Her sister was attending the school. I took photos and my friend Vanessa Matautia, special events director for the Pacific Islands Athletic Alliance, interviewed people for a story. Vanessa wrote the story but it was never printed because it got lost. I posted some of Bennett's photos on Facebook.

I'd often communicate with Tu'upo-Alaimaleata on Facebook. Facebook is where our relationship started. Gradually, I started spending more time at the school. Eventually, I enrolled my children there. When the director offered me a teacher assistant position, I took it. Later, I was asked to join the school's executive team as administrative specialist. I did.

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