Mission Accomplished: Tokelau’s Akeimo fulfils promise to late mother
By Litia Maiava (Te Mana)
Akeimo Solomona was born and raised in Tokelau. At the age of 20, he moved to New Zealand to further his studies and be close to his parents and family.
It was a blessing as he was able to share with his mother, Paepae, about his childhood dream to one day serve the people of Tokelau. He promised he will return home and work for Tokelau.
Not too long after making that promise, Paepae passed away in 2011. At the same time, living in New Zealand changed him. The biggest change came when he met his future wife Lisi. And then not long after they were married, the couple was blessed with three sons, Fakaofo Jr Tony S, Patrick Iuta S, and Fano Elisala Solomona.
These changes saw Akeimo re-assess his outlook on life. He looked at his young family and for their sake, he decided to stay in New Zealand where his children will have more opportunities and a better future.
But no matter those major life-changing decisions he had to make, he never forgot the promise he made to his mother Paepae.
One day while that memory was playing in his mind, an idea he had back in 2007 all of sudden came out of the blue. The idea was about donating educational resources for schools in Tokelau.
In a burst of adrenalin he grabbed onto the idea as the means to finally make good on the promise he made Paepae.
“When I was at school in Tokelau, I remembered our library had only a few books and resources – they were no where near enough for the number of students.”
Akeimo said when they were given assignments to do inn those days that “when we finished our studies we raced to the library and whoever got there first get the good books.
“It’s an experience that I will never forget,” recalled Akeimo with a smile. He feels even though there’s more resources on island today, they are still not enough and why he is convinced this is the best avenue for him to serve Tokelau, and fulfill the promise he made to his mother.
To get the ball rolling, Akeimo shared his idea with Livi Mativa (Principal for Tialeniu School, Fakaofo) and Mika Kalolo, a member of Atafu Taupulega and General Fono on Facebook. He told them that he wanted to serve Tokelau, especially the school kids with their learning and study.
But it wasn’t easy to turn the idea into reality. There were a number of challenges that threatened to derail his project but Akeimo never gave up. The promise he made was the driving force getting him through the challenges but he was still nowhere near to achieving his goal.
At the beginning of 2017, that was when Akeimo decided to tell his wife and three boys about the promise he made his mother and how he had been trying to make good on that promise.
When they heard Akeimo, the family came together as a collective force behind their father. The emotional energy, determination and love from his family to turn his dream into reality was indescribable said Akeimo.
The very next day, Akeimo and his family started visiting Whitcoulls and the Warehouse. They started to buy books for the little kids. They went to school galas where they scored some very good condition resources for the schools.
Akeimo also shared his mission with workmates and they quickly jumped on board donating books and other educational resources.
It was like a journey up Mt Everest for Akeimo and his family. It wasn’t easy but they were determined and believed in their cause.
In the early days of November 2017, Akeimo stood on the summit of his Mt Everest. In a journey that started off focusing only on Fakaofo’s Tialeniu School had gained greater momentum and goodwill that the project now dubbed “Tokelau Vision” has gathered more than enough resources to also supply Atafu’s Matauala and Nukunonu’s Matiti schools.
The packing and freight arrangements saw three pellets full of books leave Wellington for Auckland where the Norfolk Guardian was to take them directly to Tokelau.
Although the journey to Tokelau did not go according to plan, the phone calls Akeimo received from the three atolls that the books have arrived brought tears to his eyes.
It was confirmation that he had finally honoured the promise he made all those years ago to his mother.
On the atolls, the donations were received with gratitude and heartfelt appreciation.
Livi Mativa said “This is going to be a big plus for Tialeniu students, not only will this add more books to the library, but there are good books for all the different level at school.
“The resources now readily available will be a great help to our students and teachers both at school and at home.”
The young children at the Early Childhood Centre (ECE) were especially excited when they were given toys from the donation.
All the books and toys are stamped with the Akeimo Family donation label to remind everyone of Akeimo’s gift to the children of Tokelau.
“We will look after all these resources with care,” said Mr Mativa.
The Acting Principal of Nukunonu’s Matiti school, Ms Maliana Luka and Principal Timo at Atafu’s Matauala school also commended and praised the efforts of Akeimo and his family.
In his concluding comments, Akeimo said the gifts were not about seeking praise or credit or seeking attention, “this was about giving it back to our people”.
“I owe it to our people back home because it is they who taught me when I was child until I moved to New Zealand.
“This is the least that I could do, not to repay them, but to help our teachers back home carry on with their hard work in educating our future generations.
“I owe it to our ancestors who have passed away, I hope I have made them proud with this gift I’ve done for our children.”
His promise fulfilled, and dream of being of service to the people of Tokelau a reality, Akemo hopes his efforts would inspire other Tokelauans to help Tokelau’s three atolls and people living on them.
“I would like to give thanks to our Father in Heaven for his help that allowed me to complete and fulfill this dream. I faced so many challenges but my heart that beats for our people never gave up so that in the end these resources could help our kids make a better future for themselves and keep our Tokelau way of life alive.