This story appears here from our 2009 publication, Pacific Islander Voices. Simamao’s story is part of NAPCA’s continuing legacy of work with AAPI seniors.
Born 1947, American Samoa
I was 11 when I came here. My mother said it was a better place for us – for education and job. I came with my brothers. I was the only girl at that time. When I first came here, sometimes people talk to you and because I speak with the accent, they say, “Where are you from?” I say, “Oh, I’m from the Island.” “What island?” “American Samoa.” And I say to them: “There are two. There is Western Samoa and American Samoa.” Then they ask me, “Why is there two?” I say, “Western Samoa used to belong to the British. American Samoa belongs to the United States.” They say, “Oh, wow. We didn’t know that.” I say, “Well, at least you know that now.”
It’s funny because I was never around my Samoan people. The only time I’m around them is when I go to church. I go to church – with my mother and my brothers – and then we go back home. The way I was brought up, the church comes first. Six days you can work. Seventh day is church and a day of rest. And to this day, I still carry that – what I was taught. And I was taught respect. It doesn’t matter what color. We are all God’s children.
NAPCA – I love that place. I started here because of my sister-in-law. I was kind of embarrassed to get out and go over there. But then, she brought me over. If it wasn’t for NAPCA, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to work here and meet other people and to learn. This is my first chance to work and I’m very proud of it. I’m not embarrassed.
I’m happy to have this work, especially at my age. I want to learn the copy machine and they taught me how. Answering the phone – they also told me how to do it. I listen and I take the message. They told me: “See this paper here? You write down the person’s name, his or her name. Write it there and say what they want. You say where they’re from, what business or what office. And the phone number, don’t forget to write the phone number. That’s the most important. When you finish, tear it out. And do you see the names up there?” “Yes.” “You pick out the right name and put it in there.” “Oh, thank you so much, ma’am!” “Call me by my name.” “Yes, Florence.”
Me, I just want to help people. This is what I do here. I talk to people. I ask them, “What about your life?” And I tell them about my life. I am so happy that NAPCA gives me this opportunity to learn and to talk to people. I’m supporting myself with this money I receive. It helps me pay my rent. I don’t want to apply for the SSI (Supplemental Security Income) now. Other people need it. As long as these legs can take me and I can do my work – my arms, my hands, my fingers still move – I’m not going to retire. I’m going to work.
As we continue to celebrate 40 years of service you can visit the 40 for 40 page to read more stories. To support the self-sufficiency of seniors like Simamao, please donate now to support the continuing mission of NAPCA.