Hardship, struggles and poverty are real issues in Samoa, contrary to what some people say.
For the Adventist Development and Relief Agency Samoa (A.D.R.A.), the global humanitarian organization of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, they don’t listen to voices.
They see a need and they act to help. That’s because their mission is to work with people in poverty and distress, to create just and positive change through empowering partnerships and responsible action.
And by partnering with communities, organizations and governments they are able to improve the quality of life of people. Hundreds of them live in Samoa.
The driving force behind A.D.R.A. Samoa is the Managing Director, Su’a Julia Wallwork.
Interestingly enough, it’s not a role she had sought permanently. She was supposed to be just volunteering for six months. Nine years later, she is still there driving the group.
Today she tells us that it is her calling.
“I never thought that this time in my life this is what I want to do,” she said. “When I was called by the church to do this work, I said to them that it would only be for six months until they found someone to do it.”
“I also said to them that I will work as a volunteer, but once I got into it, I felt the need and every day I could see where we needed to help.”
“I also felt that so many people don’t come out and say we need this. So I said this to my team that we have to have eyes in our hearts so that when we look we feel, don’t just look and walk, but look and feel where the need is. See with your heart then you will feel the need.”
“It has been one of the most rewarding experiences in my life, not only that I have been blessed to work with good team of workers, but with people who are dedicated and are willing to go the extra mile to help.”
“But especially to work with the families that we have reached out to.”
Su’a said A.D.R.A’s work is guided by a motto: “Making a difference one life at a time.”
“If we can make a difference in someone’s life, then we have achieved our goal.”
“For A.D.R.A, it’s just gone from one step to another. I kept thinking we will do this and then that’s it, however God opens doors and even when those doors seem to close, God opens them again and I just felt that in everything we did, God’s hand was there. That’s what gave me the strength and courage to work with A.D.R.A.”
Despite her calling, her family wants her to retire and enjoy life with them.
“It’s a lot of pressure from my family because they worry so unnecessarily about me,” she said. “They want me to retire, spend more time with them and my grandchildren, but to me there is still a lot of work that needs to be done and if God can wake me up every morning and give me the strength, then I need to do that work.”
So when did it all start?
“I started at the end of 2009 here at A.D.R.A. and for someone who was only supposed to stay for six months, I ended up being here for nine years.”
“I only answered the call because I thought I’ll help them until they find somebody, but I can’t believe that it has been this long.”
Some of her highlights?
“It was after the tsunami, I was working as Director of Women and Children’s Ministry, for the church. They appointed me as the Aid Coordinator for the tsunami and from then I went on to A.D.R.A. and I guess that was the turning point in my life is to see the immense suffering that needed someone to reach out to them.”
“And I think that was the turning point and it was then and there that I vowed that I will make a difference. There are no challenges because we are supported by the church and the leaders of the church and at home our family can sit and talk through any situation.”
“And any situation that comes as a family we are able to resolve it.”
“I’m also very blessed and proud to be part of my village and being a matai in my village as I have been a matai for 30 years now and I’m very blessed to have that in my life to be part of my village and my extended family.”
“Initially I thought there would be a challenge in being a woman, but I realize it all depends on you as a person to make your mark and to earn the respect that you deserve because I believe there is no prejudice against women in Samoa.”
So where does she get her inspiration from?
“Every day I thank God that I was given such wonderful parents the late Papali’i Ulumalautea and Ellen Ryan,” she said.
“A lot of times I recall their voices, their wisdom, their manner of doing things and a lot of times that is where I get my strength and inspiration from.”
“But I’m only able to do my work and I’m inspired by my parents and encouraged when I think of them guided by their wisdom and love, but I can do my work today with the love of my husband and children as a family.”
“I don’t want people to think that being a matai is just a matai, I want them to know that I am a hand on matai in my village.”
“But then the different project that A.D.R.A. has delivered, it has been pleasing to see the difference we can make in people’s lives.”
Lastly she also spoke of how blessed she is with her family.
“I married Seiuli Paul Wallwork in 1967,” she said. “We are celebrating our 50th anniversary this year.”
“It has been a whole year of celebration and all I can say is I thank God for the love of my family and the love of a good husband and God has blessed me with wonderful children and family and I am so proud of all of that.”
She hails from the villages of Gagaifolevao Lefaga and Vaoala. She has three children and 11 grandchildren.