After a twenty years, Virginia Toalepai, returns to her homeland – Samoa.
She is the President and C.E.O. of World Wide Safety – a consultant company that deals with safety in construction in the United States.
The young businesswoman has roots in Matautu-uta and Saleimoa but now lives in Las Vegas, Nevada.
She hopes through this visit, she would be able to give back to Samoa and also search for opportunities to expand her business.
“When I came here I did not see a lot of hope,” she shared with the Samoa Observer.
“It feels like home coming back, but at the same time I still do not see much change in education and also opportunities for the kids who attend college.
“The only thing I can see change here is technology like smartphones, but as far as opportunities for anybody for a better future, I do not see that.
“I was expecting more change. For example I still see those kids selling tooth picks and popcorn, that was my perspective when I left here, I thought when I come back that would be way better. Coming back after 20 years and still seeing that, it breaks my heart.”
Ms. Toalepai also runs the film and music company, 300 Productions.
“Giving back to the community by giving opportunities like in music, because I know that there is talent here, kids sing or create music. I am interested in those kids who have that unique talent. I will be very specific on who will not give up and for those who see the bigger picture in their career instead of just here.
“I want to give more opportunities to all the kids here and show them that there is more than what they know from here.”
Ms. Toalepai is working on setting up a music studio here in Samoa and her co-worker, Uili, is already working with some local artists.
“For the younger generation, the main thing I have to offer is the music and film production. I want to give opportunities to people who can’t perform in the music industry. So this is what I am working on right now,” she explained.
She knows through her own experiences what it means to grow up in Samoa.
When her father took her family to the United States, her perspective about life changed.
“I grew up here, I know how it is to go to school, and I know how it is to have no lunch or nothing at all even when going home. From this type of lifestyle, I got to have more opportunities; more doors opened and my view of education and opportunities broadened out there. It made me want to do something better for my country.”
Coming home with empty hands is not what Ms. Toalepai wanted. This is the reason it took her 20 years to return.
“I am now in a position where I can do something and make a difference. I wanted first to reach a position where I will be able to help. When you once have something tenable, people see that you have been successful. Ten years ago I had nothing to prove, but now my company is huge, we are in five states in America. I wanted to earn that respect first, before I come and try to change something.
“So it took me that long to graduate and explore my passion, so now it was the time.
“I am not talking about the lifestyle I mean opportunities. I do not see any help here, not at all.
“I want to be the first one, the full Samoan that people look up to. I want people to go overseas and have the same ambition and the will to do something to change. To show them that Samoa can do it.”