The West Side Story & South Side Story was founded by Ligi Toleafoa and Pili Apulu in 2020 as a platform to share personal testimonies and stories from Pacific people, with the hope to encourage, educate and inspire one another.
West and South Side stories of our Samoan and Pacific youth are republished with permission by Samoa Global News, so we can together proudly celebrate #SamoansAroundTheGlobe
This is the story of Brenetta Pogi.
Tālofa lava, o lo’u igoa o Brenetta Pogi. I am a proud tāma’ita’i Samoa from the villages of Lepā, Saoluafata and Saipipi. I was born in Moto’otua Hospital and grew up in Pālisi, a small village in Apia.
I am the youngest of 8 children – 4 brothers and 3 sisters so you can imagine what my childhood was like. I was everyone’s “practice baby” & “punching bag” every now and then. I absolutely loved my upbringing in Sāmoa.
I basically lived outside playing games from dawn until dusk with my 10 million cousins and kids from the village.
I attended St Mary’s Primary, Savalalo but in my last few weeks of Year 7, I found out my dad had been offered the position of Consulate General of Samoa in Auckland, NZ. Like any kid, I was excited at the thought of moving to a bigger and glamourous country but I was also terrified. Before dad could accept, he sat all of us down and asked for our opinions. However, just days prior to this meeting I found out my mum had been diagnosed with lung cancer. My siblings had known for a few weeks but because I was the baby, they kept me in the dark. Obviously at 12 years old I didn’t understand the extent of her condition, but I knew it wasn’t good.
We all encouraged dad to accept the offer so mum could get the treatments she needed and before we knew it, we were on the plane to NZ. February 22nd, 2009 is when our new journey began here in Auckland. The government house at the time was in Hillsborough so we spent a few years there until the new one in Mangere, South Auckland was built. I have been living in Mangere since and this has become home.
I completed my intermediate and high school years at St Mary’s College, Ponsonby.
Honestly, I absolutely hated my first year there. Everything was so foreign to me. The people, the curriculum and the system in general. My sister and I tried to fake illnesses almost every day just to get out of going to school IYKYK.
To say we struggled is an understatement. As if this wasn’t enough, our mum lost her battle to cancer June 11th, 2009 just months after moving to NZ. This was a tough pill to swallow but when you’re only 12, grief is just a word. My mind didn’t process everything until I finished high school and started university.
February 15th, 2015: I packed up 2 suitcases and moved down to Dunedin. Growing up I wanted what every child wanted, which was to be a famous singer or actress or was that just me? Nah I always enjoyed the Sciences and I was good at them too. I knew as early on as year 9 that I wanted to be a Doctor.
At the time I didn’t know why but in hindsight I think mum influenced this dream quite heavily. So off I went to Dunedin with the hopes of getting into Medical School straight after First Year Health Sciences, but the universe really said ‘not today sis’ when I failed one paper in my 2nd sem.
This came as no surprise as I knew I didn’t put in the work, but it was a huge wakeup call for me.
This setback fueled my passion even more and so I decided to complete a Bachelor of Science then re-apply under the Graduate Category. Days before my application was due, I found out I was ineligible for the Pacific pathway as I was an international student. My stress levels were through the roof and I cried for days because I really thought that was the end of the road for me.
By the grace of God, I received offers from both Medical and Dentistry Schools on Dec 12th, 2017 and 4 days later I graduated with my BSci. Celebrations were short-lived though when I realised I had to pay international fees which ranged from $80 – 100k NZD a year. My poor dad paid this amount for 2 years with my rent and allowance on top of it!! No complaints and all he asked in return was that I do well and pass. So I did just that.
It was no easy feat getting here but I am so damn proud to say that I’m about to start 5th year of Med School next month and if all goes well I’ll be a qualified doctor by Dec 2022.
I’m currently doing an internship at SouthSeas Health Care, Otara. It’s been such a blessing getting to know our community. Working there in the near future is definitely on the cards but the end goal has always been to return back home to Samoa to help rebuild the health system and serve our beautiful people but for now, I shall continue to work hard so that one day I’ll be worthy of such responsibility.
Lastly, I’ll leave you with a Sāmoan legend & proverb that I stumbled across recently, “Tulituli-Matagau le ufi a Sina” – “To follow the path of Sina’s broken yam”.
The story teaches that the pursuit of any noble goal can be achieved with perseverance, resilience and most importantly, the support of family. This resonated with me deeply as I wouldn’t be where I am today without the constant support and prayers of my family, friends, father and partner.
They’ve been there every step of the way cheering me on esp when I felt like giving up and returning home.
What I’ve learned over the years is that surrounding yourself with people that mirror your own values and goals, will not only help you reach your destination but take you a step further.
Fa’afetai tele lava ma ia manuia. @ Mangere, New Zealand.