Ms Tasileta Tagiilima started working at Don Bosco Technical Centre (DBTC) in Alafua, Samoa, in 2018 on a temporary contract to help with secretarial duties. Little was Tasileta to know that this temporary role was the start of a beautiful journey that has touched the lives of so many, right up to the present day!
To meet Tasileta is to immediately be drawn to her. She emanates joy to those she encounters, and her maternal nature is immediately evident. Like so many in Samoa, she can often be found laughing in a way that animates her entire being. It only takes a moment to be with Tasileta to know she has a kind and gentle heart.
However, like us all, her story has many moments of darkness, difficulty, and despair. Prior to joining the team at DBTC she nursed her husband through a decade of illness and was left widowed in 2017.
During this difficult time Tasileta needed to ensure that she could not only take care of her husband but needed to provide for the entire family at large. She worked tirelessly on her home sewing business to provide for her family. Her talent for sewing helped her provide for her children during her husband’s sickness as it was their only form of income.
Very quickly during Tasileta’s time as secretary at DBTC, the leadership team realised that she was a real asset to the school and offered her a full-time role.
Students in Tasileta's class get the care and concern of a mother, and the professionalism and know-how of an expert!
In 2019, DBTC started the very exciting and important discussion about enrolling women to give them access to learning trades. In 2020 Don Bosco opened its doors to young women and at the same time also started a new hospitality course.
With her talent and experience in sewing, Tasileta stepped into the role as sewing teacher in the hospitality course. She had no formal teacher training just a willingness to work hard and share her talents. In 2020 Tasileta started her journey as a teacher. She recalls, “God puts you in the right place at the right time and sometimes it is difficult to understand”. Never having had any formal teacher training, she put her faith and trust in God.
In the early days of the program Tasileta remembers starting with nothing, only a few needles and threads! She recalls praying to God that one day the sewing room would be full of everything they needed. It seems that over these past two years her prayers have been heard.
The simple donation of these machines has had a profound effect on countless people
Tasileta could see the benefit of offering this skill to all the students at DBTC, young men and women alike. However, she did not stop there. In collaboration with the excellentleadership at DBTC, Tasileta started a community sewing program. She knew how important it was for her during various times in her life to have this skill to provide an income for her family, and she wanted to upskill members of the community to give them the same opportunity.
“These ladies, especially the young ladies without jobs, stay home with their children. They really want to work and that is why they came for this course. It allows them to work from home and provide for their families. Clothing is also expensive in Samoa so, if they can learn to sew, they can also sew clothes for their families and help in this way”.
Tasileta understands this reality and is passionate about helping the community and wants to empower others in the same way she was empowered with her small business to provide for her family. She tells all her students, both those at DBTC and from the community course, that the “door is always open for them to come back if they ever need anything – we are a family”. When asked what Don Bosco means to her, she replies, “You come with nothing, but you go out with a lot of blessings”.
Tasileta's classes have been eagerly picked up by students!
Her hard work, faith and dedication is improving livelihoods in Samoa. The course continues to grow and improve under her direction. The arrival of ten industrial sewing machines from generous donors in Australia through the Salesian Missions Office is helping her to take the course to a new level. At the blessing for the new machines, Tasileta was overcome with emotion. After standing in the same room with nothing, it is now full… and just not with equipment but of countless success stories of women and men who have passed through the course and are now providing for their families.
“I see God’s love in the young people and in the community, and that is what keeps me going”.
To help support incredible teachers like Tasileta, please visit Salesian Missions Australia.
This story originally appeared in the Winter 2022 edition of the Salesian Bulletin, which is available here!