Six stories from Manu’a High School

They are part of online Pacific Storytellers
blue@samoanews.com

A group of young people from the Manu’a Islands have begun their journey of “storytelling”, documenting and sharing their experiences and thoughts about their homeland to the world, through a collaboration with Pacific Storytellers Cooperative, and mentoring by Daniel Lin, a Senior Policy Specialist for the Pacific Resources for Education and Learning (PREL) in Honolulu, Hawai’i.

Last week, Lin traveled to the Manu’a Islands where he spent a week hosting a workshop for high school students there, training them on ways to properly use the written word, video clips, and photographs to tell ‘their story’ about life in Manu’a.

After all was said and done, a total of six stories, about six places, were completed and all of them can be viewed online at https://maptia.com/ manuastorytellers

The site includes the text, a portrait of the author, and at least one photo they took during the course of the project.

SELESITINA SCANLAN

Today, the spotlight is on Selesitina Scanlan, whose story is entitled: “Transformation in Ta’u, Manu’a.” Scanlan focused on Ta’u leading the way with solar energy power, with the island now being 98% energy efficient.

“As exciting as it is, it was not always this way,” the high school student wrote.

She reflected on the past, back in 1972 when the American Samoa Power Authority brought the original power plant to Ta’u. “This provided the entire island with power from the burning of diesel fuel,” Scanlan wrote, adding that before ASPA built the power plant in Ta’u, each village survived off from smaller power generators, which provided power for schools and individual homes.

She interviewed a 61-year-old teacher who said that the power generators never failed during school hours, although there was a 10p.m. curfew, during the time all generators were shut down to save gas for the next day.

According to Scanlan, the teacher said that once the generators were shut down, the only light source they had was the moon.

For the present time, Scanlan noted that the whole island is now powered entirely by the sun.

“Most locals don’t see the change in our environment, but they know the benefits of this project and what will become of it in the long run,” Scanlan wrote. “For example, we don’t have to heavily depend on the M/V Sili to transport diesel to our island anymore. Instead of producing just electricity, the diesel power generators produce air pollution as well. This has been hurting our environment and also the health of our people. With this solar project, our air is clean and our environment is safe.”

Nobody knows what the project holds for the future of Ta’u. “Personally, I am just glad to be able to see this project come to life. We have taken the biggest step to saving our surroundings and especially our precious home we call Earth. To be a part of this movement in taking the initiative to “Go Green” is the best feeling ever. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for the future of my people, my environment and most of all, my island. What a time to be alive.”

DANIEL LIN’S REACTION

“It should come as no surprise that Manu’a holds a special place in my heart.  I first ventured onto the shores of Faleasao village in 2009. At that time, I was a naïve and wide-eyed wanderer setting out to educate students who ended up teaching me just as much as I taught them. Needless to say, my experience there changed me: it made me stronger, kinder, and more dedicated than ever to serve our island communities.  This most recent storytelling project – The Pacific Storytellers Cooperative – has been my favorite initiative thus far.”

The project, according to Lin, draws upon two basic premises:

“Firstly, it acknowledges that storytelling has always been part of the DNA of Pacific Island communities. Storytelling is how we connect to our past, present, and future. It is heard in the quiet whispers of our ancestors and the joyful laughter of our children.  But simply, stories remind us of who we are and who we strive to be.”

“The second major premise of this project is a recognition that we are in a digital age where technological capacity and connectivity are both at an all-time high. This is especially true for the youth of our islands. Give a young person any device and they seem to master it without any trouble. Some may see this as a problem that shackles our younger generations, but I choose to see it as an opportunity – a chance to bring our storytelling traditions into a new age of connection and creativity.”

Lin explained, “This blending of traditional craft and modern technology perfectly reflected in last week’s Manu’a Storytellers workshop, sponsored by PREL. For an entire week, I worked closely with five young high school storytellers to help share their island’s perspective on the new solar energy power plant on Ta’u. Their published work is a reflection of the collective voice of their community as well as a testament to their capacity for using everyday devices – phones, tablets, and computers – as powerful tools for telling stories. I couldn’t be prouder of this young bunch and I challenge people of all ages in American Samoa to do the same.”

It’s been almost 8 years since Lin first ventured out to these islands and he says he’s “blessed to be able to continue serving American Samoa after all this time. I owe so much of my own personal growth to the people of Manu’atele and I hope this project can serve as the beginning of a much bigger movement of digital storytelling for all of our young people. I would also like to give a special “fa’afetai” to Samoa News, ASPA, Manu’a High School Faculty and Staff, and (of course) the amazing people of Manu’a.”

PACIFIC STORYTELLERS COOPERATIVE

Last year, PREL launched the Pacific Storytellers Cooperative, an Internet platform for place-based stories from all Pacific Islands to be shared with a global audience.

The multimedia effort embraces the rich Pacific storytelling heritage and brings it into the Internet age.

Lin serves as the director of the program.

He explained that the project seeks to find the nexus between oral traditions of our island communities and present-day modalities of communication, especially among youth of the Pacific.

“Storytelling is a very embedded part of Pacific culture and Indigenous cultures generally. We want to encourage the younger generations to take up the mantle of telling stories and to take advantage of greater levels of connectivity and improved technical capacity—which exists even in remote places.”

The Cooperative accepts submissions in all forms from Indigenous Pacific Islanders and residents, including written stories, photos, videos, and poetry.

If anyone wishes to contribute stories to PREL’s Pacific Storytelling Cooperative (www.storytellers.prel.org), please contact Lin at lind@prel.org.

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