31 May 2018
Alofa atu nei, Alofa atu taeao – Kindness given, kindness gained is this year’s theme for Samoan Language Week. We are privileged to live in a country that recognises and uplifts Pacific languages as it reflects the large Pacific population who strongly identify and maintain their cultural heritage. This is also reflected in PCF staff who identify as Pacific, as well as being fluent in their mother tongue.
As the influence of Samoan culture keeps growing, there was a need for a network that connected Samoan businesses, entrepreneurs and professionals.
In 2013, the Samoan Business Network (SBN) was established with the vision to see Samoan individuals with business aspirations succeed in achieving their business goals.
Henrietta Lee Devoe Ah Chong, a passionate individual who is a proud member of SBN, opened up to PCF about her unique backstory of juggling business ventures, book writing and motherhood.
With her book, ‘O Le Va’a O le Folau’ being launched tonight in Mangere’s Fale o Samoa, Henrietta says that the journey to get where she is today were filled with plenty of ups and a fair share of downs.
“I could never separate myself from writing,” she says.
“Back in Samoa, I was always seen with a pen in my hand. I knew that I had to make a living out of it.”
Henrietta was born in Samoa and educated at Avele College and Robert Louis Stevenson. She also attended Wiley Park Girls High School in Australia, where she was the top debater and flourished in her English and Arts subjects.
Coming away with a scholarship after her University Preparatory Year, Henrietta’s plan of starting a publishing company was on the cards. In 2011 she launched her very first book called ‘Treasures of My Soul’ which is now used for some programs at the National University of Samoa. Henrietta also wrote and created a musical theatre production called ‘Grease Polynesia’ attracting an audience of 3000 and glowing reviews from Samoa’s theatre critics.
Her business acumen kicked in not long after. She soon found herself running a restaurant, a car import company and a tyre export company. While her writing and business abilities kept her busy in Samoa, Henrietta and her husband decided to move to New Zealand, devoting her time fully in raising her family.
For a while, Henrietta’s publishing dreams went on hold, but in between her duties as a hands-on mum, she still managed to write. Her tenacity and commitment caught the attention of publishing companies in New Zealand and London, offering her contracts in 2016.
“They were offers that ‘couldn’t be refused’ but I went with my heart and turned both down because I wanted to own the rights to my writing.”
As Henrietta prepares for her book launch tonight, she’s already looking ahead for what’s in store for her writing journey.
“I would definitely be keen to help other aspiring writers self-publish their work that is affordable and find ways to get back into incorporating my writing with music and theatre. With God, all things are possible.”
Fa’afetai tele lava Henrietta, malo le tauivi, malo le finau! Fa’amanuia le Atua ia te oe ma lou galuega. Soifua ma ia manuia.