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US-based designer Afa Ah Loo surprises baby sister with ‘mini prom’ in Samoa

By Sarah Maiava

Afa Ah Loo with sister Phila. PC: Afa Ah Loo

US-based fashion designer Afa Ah Loo originally planned to come to Samoa to surprise his baby sister Phila on her graduation, with a prom dress he designed. But with news of the measles outbreak and a State of Emergency declared by the Government, all schools closed, and all proms and prizegivings were cancelled. “My sister and her classmates weren’t going to have their prom and graduation, something that the kids have been looking forward to for such a long time.”

Afa still wanted to make sure to do something nice for his sister and her prom date, Thomas, who both graduated from LDS Church College Pesega. He decided to bring the gown over anyway. “I still wanted her to experience the feeling of how it would’ve felt like if she had gone to a prom.”

In true Samoan style, creating a ‘mini prom’ was a family effort. “Thankfully to Thomas and his family, they wanted to take our family and my baby sister out to dinner.”

Thomas and Phila at Phila’s family house. PC: Afa Ah Loo

With Phila dressed in Afa’s design – a statement floral gown in Afa’s signature “sweetly bold” style – Afa called in his Aunty Dahlia for help with Phila’s hair and make-up. Thomas’ family took photos at their family home, and then everyone met up at Taumeasina for dinner. “[Thomas] was such a gentleman, picking Phila up, bringing flowers and also a gift bag for her, and his Aunty Maima gave her earrings as well.”

Thomas and Phila at Taumeasina Island Resort, Apia. PC: Afa Ah Loo

Afa even got Phila to put on her graduation gown so that he could take a photo. “It made me so happy that my baby sister and her partner still had the opportunity to go on a mini prom date. They both dressed up and had an amazing time!”

PC: Afa Ah Loo

But since news of the outbreak, Afa also began focusing on how he could use his time in Samoa to help serve during Samoa’s greatest time of need. He decided to volunteer with Helping Hands Samoa, a group who have come together to provide support to their community and Samoan families affected by the measles epidemic. Their help includes providing food, care packs, water and more to those who need it most.

Helping Hands on their hospital run at Moto’otua Hospital. PC: Afa Ah Loo

“They solely operate using donations, so to be able to provide meals for morning and evenings has been an amazing accomplishment.” Afa says his time volunteering with Helping Hands has been “an amazing testament of how working together can really bring forth amazing outcomes”.

Helping Hands prepping at their headquarters. PC: Afa Ah Loo

As he gets ready to leave Samoa tomorrow, Afa reflects on the strength of the Samoan people, many who are working tirelessly to help however they can. “People are working together to provide for the needs of these babies and their families. It is the true spirit of being Polynesian.”

You can find out more information on the work The Helping Hands are doing on their Facebook page.

PC: Afa Ah Loo

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