(PAGO PAGO--WEDNESDAY, MARCH 16, 2016)--Last week, a ceremony took place at LBJ Hospital in Faga'alu, American Samoa to officially unveil a new, improved and much brighter playroom to uplift the spirits of young patients admitted to the LBJ Pediatrics Ward.
The project was spearheaded by Miss American Samoa Suluga Taliau, a student at the American Samoa Community College who kicked off the endeavor with a fundraiser she titled "Run for Love." The event promoted fitness and challenged American Samoa to run for a loved one, someone who is sick, perhaps away in the United States military -- someone, anyone they love.
“Being Miss American Samoa involves community service projects,” explained Suluga, “and I conceived of this one from having brought my younger siblings to the Pediatric Ward several times.”
While the ward has long had its playroom for child patients, Miss Taliau noticed the room’s need for some TLC in the form of a makeover.
“I knew of playrooms in the states and how overjoyed children would feel when they would visit. To benefit the child patients at LBJ, and with the approval of LBJ CEO Taufete’e John Faumuina, I decided to make their break room my first project as Miss American Samoa."
The refurbished break room is now a more cheerful space enlivened by art depicting well-known cartoon characters as well as miscellaneous toys and items of amusement. The effort also involved art students from the American Samoa Community College (ASCC) working under professor of the Arts Regina Meredith of the Fine Arts Department.
The ceremony was blessed with a word of prayer from Rev. Elder Eveni Mamoe. He was accompanied by his wife, Faletua Mrs. Leumete Mamoe.
Joining Miss Taliau, Prof. Meredith and the student artists at the official opening were U.S. Congresswoman Aumua Amata, American Samoa's First Lady Cynthia Malala Moliga, Rep. Mulinu'u Maluia, LBJ CEO Taufete'e John Faumuina, Rep. Dr. Annie Fuavai and MASI Members President Simeafou Imo, Vice President Igafo Maria Va'a and Moana Purcell.
“The process was long and a little difficult, but not impossible,” Suluga said.
“First, I conducted a fundraiser for the project, Run for Love, to promote fitness while giving the people of American Samoa the opportunity to run for someone they love, whether this was someone who is sick, away in the military, or something along those lines.”
Miss Taliau also organized a toy drive through February for new toys or used ones still in good condition. Her family members and friends provided assistance with the physical refurbishment of the room.
“My father Lepuapua Taliau and my Uncle Jerry built the new shelves and toy box,” she said. “My friend Clarence Pila and I painted the tables and chairs. Clarence also helped patch up the little portions the ceiling where needed.”
To give the room an uplifting visual aspect, Miss Taliau, herself an ASCC student, sought the help of Prof. Meredith, who in turn organized students from this semester’s Painting (ART 172) class, along with several previous class members, to contribute their talents.
"When Suluga approached me about her project, I said yes immediately,” recalled Prof. Meredith, “first, because she is a full-time ASCC student, and also because it enables Art students to experience firsthand what a collaborative project feels like, with creative input, work ethics, and a deadline to meet. Plus it is so rewarding to surround oneself with that artistic energy."
Under Prof. Meredith’s guidance, ASCC student artists Hillary Purcell, Loimata Siona, Tanu Luani, Warren King, Pua Tofaeono, and Aidan King worked during regularly scheduled meetings and on their own time for three weeks, resulting in the break room’s transformation from a bland space into one rich in expertly-rendered images of well-known cartoon characters.
While the Pediatric Ward playroom may be “up and running” now, Miss Taliau anticipates that the project will require ongoing attention.
“We will still seek donations of toys as well as resources for the occasional repairs and additional furniture,” she explained.
Anyone wishing to donate to the LBJ Pediatric Ward playroom can contact Miss Suluga Taliau through the American Samoa Visitors Bureau at 699-9805.