Vainuupo “AV” Avegalio is an expressive poet, a talented visual artist, and a U.S. Army Veteran. Since finishing his service, Avegalio has spent his time using his art and poetry to express his experiences with war, and help other vets process their own trauma. “Military life was both a blessing and a curse,” Avegalio told WUSA9. “It took me to places I could have only dreamed of growing up on Samoan Islands. I witnessed horror, destruction, merciless acts of inhumanity. I saw acts of gallantry and heroism. I sent and welcomes many good friends home. I was shot at by enemies. I was spit on by the people we fought to protect. Through 12 years of service and even today, a battle deep within me grew stronger with each breath and every thought, a battle with myself.”
Lately, Avegalio has been sleeping in his car so he could travel across the U.S. to help other veterans in need. He volunteers at correctional facilities and with at-risk youth, offering workshops focused on poetry and art creation. He utilizes these workshops to help these groups fight through their own pain and find a way to express themselves through art, in hopes of preventing suicide. What’s even more incredible, Avegalio even uses his own money that he receives from the Army to fund his workshops and buy supplies, rather than keeping it for himself.
Non-profit organization HeroHomes has recognized Avegalio’s selflessness, and wanted to reward and honor his commitment to supporting his community. The organization’s mission is to, “build houses for those who have fought for the preservation of freedom and democracy for others… We provide the opportunity for disabled veterans to rejoin society with the security and pride of home ownership.” HeroHomes relies heavily on community volunteers and donations and is not only able to build homes for vets, but can offer subsidized and even fully donated homes with enough help.
In May of 2021, Avegalio cut the ribbon and was handed the keys to his very own HeroHomes house. Thanks to donations, volunteer help from contractors, and contributions from local businesses, the organization was able to fund all of the building costs and furnishings for Avegalio’s new home! The basement was thoughtfully renovated into an art studio and Avegalio hopes to use the space to continue his work helping others in need.
If you’d like to help other homeless Veterans like Vainuupo Avegalio, sign this petition to demand an increase in funding for the HUD VASH program to help Veterans on the streets get back on their feet.