Every year, SPBD holds an event to celebrate its clients. An award ceremony is usually held to recognize exceptional members among the ladies who participate in the loan program. This year’s event was held this past Saturday, and it proved to be the grandest celebration to date. For the first time ever, a parade was organized to march down the main road of Apia, featuring over one thousand of SPBD’s clients. The boisterous women arrived in the early morning and, decked out in matching uniforms according to their borrowing centres, sang and danced their way to the starting line of the parade.

Since it was being held early Saturday morning, traffic was light and only a brief police cordoning of the main road was necessary. I had the honor (and surreal experience) of marching at the front of the parade, right behind the main banner, along with the rest of the SPBD staff as well as the president of SPBD, Greg Casagrande. Because of the early hour, the spectator crowd was rather light, but the ladies sang and danced their hearts out nevertheless.

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Once the tail of the parade arrived at the ceremony hall, it took a while for everyone to be seated. The venue was not designed to hold this many people, and the spectrum of colors from the ladies uniforms formed a sort of tightly packed rainbow in the cramped space. The packed seats, festive mood and wandering taro chips vendors created an atmosphere not entirely unlike that of a ballgame. The highlight of the ceremony was the keynote speech given by the Prime Minister of Samoa. He praised the efforts of SPBD and joked with Greg that even the prime minister himself has trouble organizing a gathering of the ladies of his own village, and wondered what it was about Greg that attracted a thousand women to gather in a single hall.

The ceremony proceeded with the presentation for the awards for the Centre Chief of the Year, Centre Secretary of the Year, Businesswomen of the Year, and finally the Centre of the Year. The presentations were followed by a song performance by the centre from Levi Saleimoa, the winner of the Centre of the Year award, and a dance routine by the centre from Nu’usuatia village. It’s a shame that I am unable to post the video of the performances due to bandwidth restrictions- the songs were especially fun and lighthearted, involving props and audience interaction. At the conclusion of the performances, a quick closing prayer was held and everyone rushed off to do their shopping for the upcoming week.

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