(SAMOA)–A mom and daughter academic team from Utulei are traveling to Samoa for a cross-cultural exchange that highlights the impact of pollution and environmental issues in American Samoa, Samoa and the surrounding ocean.
Mom Dr. Donna Vaitu'utu'u Achica-Talaeai said she will not participate in the three days of environmental science activities. She accompanies her daughter Donna Fa'au'uga Aigailetai Talaeai to support the honour student's selection to study in the "important" Finafinau environment program.
"She had to apply for this opportunity and waited for almost two weeks for a response. I never once helped her with her application. All I know is she had to write four different essays to include in her application," said Dr. Achica-Talaeai.
"It is very important to us for this is an academic opportunity that provides experience for her to work with students and programs in Samoa. It is not enough just to live in American Samoa...it is good to see and experience Samoa and the difference in Samoa."
Daughter Donna, from Utulei and Aua, boasts a 4.0 Grade-Point-Average and is an 11th grader at Samoana High School in Utulei. She is one of four students selected to travel to Samoa for the three-day exchange.
Her Finafinau cohorts are: Mei-Ling Aga of South Pacific Academy; Talofa Fe'a of Tafuna High School and Samuela Lafitaga of Samoana High School.
An objective of the trip is for Finafinau students to gain insight about the impacts of climate change from experts at the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) in Vailima during a SPREP workshop.
Students will tour the Gaualofa and participate in a second workshop with NGOs YCAN and ProGreen Samoa. Youth will lead the discussions at the NGO workshop.
They will visit a waterfall and plant trees with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE) at Vailima National Reserve and look at the mangroves in Moata'a that are managed by the community.
Finafinau’s goal is to promote awareness of the importance of ocean health and to encourage Pacific island communities to dispose of waste in an eco-friendly manner.
"Exploring the different opportunities, techniques and environmental projects in Samoa will serve as an example for potential projects in American Samoa," Finafinau said in a statement.
"We plan to promote awareness in our community, especially among people who possess minimal knowledge on the importance of nature’s contributions to our lives, so that they may gain a higher understanding of how critical our natural resources are to our survival."
The Finafinau team is comprised of Sabrina Suluai-Mahuka; Denis Sene Jr.; Elizabeth Fano and Kacey Iloilo. The group arrives Wednesday morning, 21 August, 2019.
"This will further open her (daughter Donna) mind to continue to research the various aspects of science and be able to appreciate the environment and realize how much is taken for granted in our world around us," Dr. Achica-Talaeai, a veteran educator of 20 years told tautalatala.com from Pago Pago.
The Samoa trip is funded by the Young Pacific Leaders (YPL) Small Grants Program under the U.S. Department of State and administered by Cultural Vistas, a non-profit.
Four students in Samoa have been selected to participate in the three-day Finafinau program.
Project Liaison in Samoa is Christine Tuioti Mariner, with the Samoa Conservation Society (SCS).