Queen recognizes Samoan advocate for people with disabilities

“Born blind, Faaolo Utumapu-Uta’ilesolo is an inspiration and role model for people with disabilities in Samoa. She holds a Masters degree in Media Communications, lectures in Journalism and Media Studies at the National University of Samoa, plays in a band and also teaches piano.”


APIA, SAMOA – 12 JUNE 2020: Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, as Head of the Commonwealth, has recognised Fa’aolo Utumapu-Utailesolo, representing Samoa, as the 132nd Commonwealth Point of Light in honour of her exceptional voluntary service championing inclusive education in mainstream schools across the Pacific.

Faaolo Utumapu-Utailesolo, representing Samoa, is an advocate for people with disabilities who has successfully championed inclusive education in mainstream schools across the Pacific. Faaolo Utumapu-Utailesolo is the Program Officer for the Pacific Island Countries for the Disability Rights Fund and the Disability Rights Advocacy Fund. She works closely with the programme team and serves as a liaison between the funds and grantees in the Pacific Island Countries.

Faaolo is an experienced disability rights advocate in the Pacific region and in her home country of Samoa. She is one of the founders of the Disability Rights Movement in Samoa, having co-founded the National Disabled People’s Organization, Nuanua o le Alofa (NOLA), in 2001.

Presented the Point of Light Award, Faaolo is pictured with her family and the British High Commissioner, David Ward.

She served in various leadership roles on the Board of NOLA, has provided volunteer capacity building support to other DPOs on a voluntary basis, and was the former president of the Samoa Blind Persons Association. Faaolo also volunteered and provided communications support for the then-emerging Deaf Association of Samoa. She also coordinated promotion and awareness campaigns for SENESE Inclusive Support Service, a provider of inclusive education services, to ensure that the message of disability-inclusive is acknowledged by the communities where children with disabilities reside.

Her dedication to the disability rights movement has continued to grow as she has served on the disability sub-sector committee of the Samoan government, as well as serving as a member of the Samoa Media Council. Faaolo has taken on various leadership roles for the Pacific Disability Forum, the Regional DPO in the Pacific, including a 4-year Board term from 2013-2017.

Each Commonwealth Point of Light will receive a personalised certificate signed by Her Majesty The Queen as Head of the Commonwealth. The award for Fa’aolo was presented today at the British High Commission Apia by David Ward, the UK High Commissioner in Samoa.

Faaolo with her family and the British High Commissioner David Ward and British Honorary Consul Taulapapa Brenda Heather-Latu.

Faaolo said: 

“Thank you Your Excellency the British High Commissioner to Samoa. On behalf of all the volunteers that I have worked with to establish the disability movement in Samoa, some have gone before us, and I accept this award on behalf of all of them. I am one of many volunteers. Also to the families of people with disabilities who support their family members with disabilities without any support, they are also heroes in my eyes. I express my sincere appreciation to the Queen for recognizing my humble service. Thank you.”

David Ward, British High Commissioner to Samoa said:

“This award is recognition of the tremendous contribution which Fa’aolo has made through her voluntary work to the important task of improving knowledge and understanding of the right of those people with disabilities. It is an honour for me to present it on behalf of Her Majesty, and I congratulate Fa’aolo.”

The Commonwealth is a diverse community of 53 nations that work together to promote prosperity, democracy and peace. The Heads of Government meeting brought together leaders from all the 53 Member countries to reaffirm common values, address shared global challenges and agree how to work to create a better future for all citizens, especially young people. Voluntary service is a vital part of this agenda, which is why Her Majesty The Queen has chosen to recognise outstanding volunteers across the Commonwealth in this special way.

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