Leilani Tuiletufuga returns to San Diego, California today filled with memories that she will cherish for the rest of her life.
She left as a toddler with twin sister Jessica and oldest sibling’s brother Lyle and sister Jade.
More than 20 years later she returns for the first time to re-connect with her father’s family in Apia and she is treasuring every second.
“Words cannot describe the feeling of being surrounded by family…my Samoan family,” says the 25 year old Marriage and Family Therapist.
Overwhelmed with the home coming receptions, Leilani has found closure by living her lifetime dream to meet in person her uncles, aunties, cousins, nieces and nephews from Samoa, Australia and New Zealand to welcome her home.
“It’s strange to be a Samoan but not living in Samoa,” says Lani.
“But I’m here now reconnecting with everyone.
“It’s very emotional and personally inspiring.”
Her biggest admiration is her cousin, Manamea Schwalger a surviving cancer fighter.
“She is my inspiration. Her will power and determination is a motivation and our family’s support is truly amazing.
“I have nothing but admiration and I’m extremely proud to be a Samoan with a huge Samoan family.”
She has nothing by admiration and pride for her home away from home after visiting many of the tourist’s scenic sights in Upolu and Savai’i. And will be Samoa’s tourism ambassador when she returns home.
Leilani now plans to organise a family reunion where the rest of her sisters will be coming home to reconnect with their Tuiletufuga Saaga family.