by Stephanie Staples | photo by Amanda Cribdon Photography –
If you run across Muave Va’a (Mua) in the community, you may want to take some time to pull up a chair and have a chat. When Mua talks, you will want to lean in so you don’t miss a word.
Hailing from the Island of Samoa, Mua nows calls Tsartlip First Nation his home with thanks to his wife Marie, whom he met in the Cook Islands – I’m seeing an island theme in this man’s life!
Mua has always been naturally pulled into roles that support communities: a helper at heart, he has spent 30+ years working with indigenous youth and volunteering where he saw a need, including Youth With a Mission (YWAM) and being the President of the Board of the NGO group Pacific People Partnership. Currently he is the front line program manager/coordinator for youth at Tsartlip and is not showing any signs of slowing down – I was lucky to squeeze this interview into his busy schedule!
While I’m certain he could talk at length about his Polynesian heritage, his three kids, his world travels and his philanthropic work, today Mua just wants you to know three things: do what needs to be done, don’t define yourself by results, and take care of your body.
Looking at Mua, I imagined he had always been a strong, fit and healthy man, but during our conversation he tells me it wasn’t always that way. Overweight, hypertensive and pre-diabetic, Mua was falling into a depressed state when Covid shocked the world. Inspired by a simple challenge that his friend had issued to bring awareness to mental health – do 25 push-ups for 25 days – something inside shifted. He pushed himself to complete the challenge, which at the time was very difficult for him, and shortly thereafter ended up in the hospital with chest pain. Thankfully tests revealed a healthy heart and a torn chest muscle – something time would fix on its own.
The beginning of physical change for Mua came in the time in between checking into the hospital and getting the results. He took a good long look in the proverbial mirror and then he had a full blown wake-up call. He thought about his spiritual- and faith-based life and how he put so much time, effort and energy into that, and he realized that he had put no energy into his physical health. Mua thought about who and what he needed to be healthy for. Taking care of himself wasn’t about just looking better: it was about living life to the fullest, and most importantly to him, it was about being well enough to look after the people that he loved the most for a long time to come.
Mua left the fad diets behind and began to go to Panorama five days a week; he went on a self-care journey that had other people asking: “What are you doing?” The man who couldn’t walk around the mall without losing his breath suddenly couldn’t stop walking. His health concerns began to dissipate, he had more energy and with more energy came the ability to help more people.
Mua has completed two years of healthy living now and is breaking up his health goals into six-month increments. He is serving as a wonderful role model, demonstrating perfectly that we are not single dimensional beings: we are multi-dimensional and it is only when we nurture all aspects of self – physical, spiritual, emotional, intellectual and community – that we can truly thrive and sustainably give our best to the world.
I hope you will take Mua’s world and philosophy to heart; I have.