A Samoan girl, who overcame her own personal trauma to share her story to support victims of sexual abuse, has celebrated the biggest moment of her life meeting Prince Harry at the Marlborough House in London.
Leilua Lino was the recipient of special prizes presented by the Duke of Sussex during a garden party celebrating the Commonwealth’s 70th anniversary.
Ms. Lino was among 14 other innovators in international development who received a trophy, certificate and £2,000 (T$6,743).
Held at the Commonwealth headquarters in Marlborough House, London, the awards recognised, celebrated and showcased impactful innovations and forward-looking solutions which help Commonwealth countries develop and advance the Commonwealth charter values.
“Leilua was raped by her own biological father at age 9 and was evacuated under Samoa Victim Support Group’s shelter and care in 2011,” said a statement from the Commonwealth.
“In 2018 she walked tall to court and achieved justice against her father who is now imprisoned for 29 years.
“Following her traumatic experience, she created a Peace Garden in 2017 as her way of healing from her experience of gender based violence. To date the Positive Movement has reached 20,000 children.”
The winners were selected by an independent jury, based on the impact or potential of their innovations to advance one or more of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
Commonwealth Secretary-General, Patricia Scotland, congratulated Ms. Lino and the other award winners.
“I hope you are as impressed as I am by the talent that is mobilised and multiplied through Commonwealth connection," she said.
“There are also many other inventors and innovators of all ages in every country and community of the Commonwealth and it is they who drive us on towards a future of health, hope and harmony.”
The competition aims to shine the spotlight on revolutionary ideas that could improve prosperity, protect our planet, promote peace and justice and encourage partnerships in the Commonwealth.
Nitesh Kumar Jangir, from India, co-founded a medical device company designed to prevent deaths in the field of emergency and critical care. Rosette Muhoza, from Rwanda, co-founded a social enterprise that ensures environmental sustainability through recycling plastic waste into construction materials.
A visibly-excited winner, Joanna Ewart-James, said the award signifies that ending modern slavery is a priority for the Commonwealth.
Fellow winner and company C.E.O. Elizabeth Kperun was chosen for her idea to simplify learning for African children and young adults by creating mobile applications and video content which educated them in their native languages.
“This award will give us more visibility. It goes a long way towards helping us achieve our objective of making education more accessible for under-privileged kids in Africa,” she said.
This is the first year of the awards, which were open to all citizens and organisations of the Commonwealth’s 53 countries.
Story from Samoa Observer.
Finding myself as I journeyed
Leilua Lino, London
“Dear Lord, as I go through what has been planned for me today; Help me see clearly your plans for my simple life.”
That was my silent prayer as I woke up in London on this second day of my journey.
Today, I met the other awardees like me. It’s funny because I never thought that you could be awarded for being a survivor. But who am I to question God’s purpose for my life?
There are six of us, and as we were introduced to each other and started sharing our stories, I could see how my life differs from the others. I could also see how I am fitting in well with the others. Oh how grateful I am to God for making all of this happen.
I listened to how they wanted to be successful in life; as for me, this is me. I am just a student at the School of Hope still searching for what life has in store for me; an abused survivor who releases her anger by digging the soil; who finds peace in planting a Garden. All I know is that I want to make a difference in the lives of other children like me.
And as we visited the museum in the afternoon, I wished that my brothers and sisters at the Campus of Hope were here to enjoy this moment together with me. It is a whole new world out here, but I chose to follow my passion and make a difference, one child at a time.
The big day is tomorrow, where the learning throughout my journey to London will be put to the test.
I am slowly seeing God’s plan for me, as I continued my journey with an open mind.
When I left Samoa for London on Tuesday afternoon, I have to keep pinching myself to check if I was dreaming. I was bound for a journey to a far away place that I’ve only heard of, and seen in the movies. I was scared and excited at the same time, but above all, I was curious. Who would have thought 10 years ago that a lost, angry and broken child, will one day be able to smile at the world again. I am survivor, and this is my journey….
I was transformed from head to toes like a model. Thanks to the kindness of my mentor Justice Vui and his lovely wife Nynette, I was all dressed up ready to meet some very important people awaiting me in London.
Thank you Justice Vui for always encouraging me to be brave, and for taking time out to wish me well on my trip.
By the time I reached Faleolo airport, I was in my travelling clothes, courtesy of MaugaLui. I was a bit more relaxed. I felt so pretty in my casual skirt and top.
With Mama Lina by my side, I was ready to embark on this life changing journey.
We flew from Apia to Auckland and immediately, I wanted to go back home. The weather was freezing; I was tired. But according to Mama Lina, we were just on the first leg of our journey. After a hot meal, I was taken shopping for some more warm clothes. Next stop: Hong Kong, some 12 hours later.
I lost track of time and fatigue crept in. But as soon as we arrived at Hong Kong, my curiosity got the best of me. I looked around me in amazement; taking in everything, the people, the environment, the big buildings. I realized I was far away from my Peace Garden at the Campus of Hope, and I missed my brothers and sisters there. But Mama Lina said, “the journey must go on.”
At last, we boarded the flight to London with a smile, knowing that we will get to our destination soon.
I was mistaken. I slept for hours, only to wake up to see white clouds outside my window. It was a 13 hour flight and my face says it all, as I pushed our trolley outside of Heathrow airport.
By midnight, we finally sat down at the Strand Palace Hotel for dinner. I felt like a princess, as I was served and treated as one. I had to eat with a fork and a knife, yes, it was all new to me. But I have been practicing.
This morning, I am dressed up in a beautiful light blue elei puletasi, gifted by Justice Vui & Nynette. I am suddenly overwhelmed with confidence, as I look forward to my first external visit as arranged.
They said the best of the trip is yet to come, but as a survivor on a journey, I am appreciating the adventure, one day at a time. In humility, I praise God for without His love, I would not be here today!
The initial results of a survey by ECPAT International to gather the perceptions of frontline welfare workers on the sexual explotation of children (SEC) in the Pacific was launched in Suva over the week. The survey was carried for welfare workers in seven Pacific countries including Samoa, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Tonga and Kiribati. The results offer a snapshot of the SEC in the Pacific, and key issues affecting children.
Amonsgt the most alarming results include (1) Boys and girls are victims of sexual exploitation; (2) Exploiters are often family members and those within the child’s circle of trust; and (3) Children experience multiple levels of vulnerability to sexual exploitation (due mainly to ‘living and/or working on the street’ and ‘poverty’.
As a member of ECPAT International, Samoa Victim Support Group had assisted with designing the survey and later, the coordination of the survey with 12 frontline welfare workers in Samoa. The results of the survey, eventhough alarming, are not new to SVSG and its child protection role.
(1) The residence of the Campus of Hope attest to boys and girls being victims of gender based violence; (2) the horrific cases of incest at the Supreme Court speaks of family members being perpetrators against their own children; and (3) the increasing number of child vendors on our streets exposed them to multiple level of vulnerability to sexual exploitation.
The results from the survey together with the views expressed by the frontline workers who attended the survey result launch, will assist ECPAT International in Bangkok with drawing up a Final Report. In due time, the welfare frontline workers will be able to develop their own National Plan of Action to advocate for legislative and program support, towards eliminating the sexual exploitation of children.
For SVSG, it is a welcoming opportunity to partner with the Samoa Family Health Association in raising awareness on the sexual exploitation of children in Samoa, hence supporting its elimination.
According to the SVSG President Siliniu Lina Chang who attended the survey launch together with the Director of the SFHA Lealaiauloto Liai Iosefa-Siitia, “there is strength in working together with valuable partners to carry out community awareness programs given the cultural taboos when discussing sex.”
A Samoan fale with half of it in good condition accommodates a father and his 4 children. The family relies on the father’s plantation for a living. They have never had access to their own tap water but fetched water instead from a relative next door. Life has been a struggle for the Aleki household at Faleula.
However, Tulaga Aleki now has one less worry, with the installation of a 1,000 litre water tank under the SVSG Juniors Clean Water Project. With funding support from the Chan Mow Company Limited, the SVSG Juniors was able to purchase and install a water tank for the Aleki household.
“At last, there will be no more water worries for me and my children,” says an emotional Tulaga Aleki.
Tulaga shared on how a lot of things have changed at their humble household since the installation of the water tank. The children can now attend school instead of collecting water all day, or being sick from waterborne illnesses. As for Tulaga, he now has more time to care for his family and expand his plantation to sustainable levels without the water worries.
It is amazing how things other people take for granted like accessing clean water, are appreciated with humility by others.
For the SVSG Juniors, the youth groups is just glad that it was able to source out funding support from the business community, in this case, Chan Mow Company Limited, which enabled the underpriviledged families like Tulaga Aleki, to access clean water as they rightly deserve.
“Thank you so much Komisi and the Chan Mow family for supporting our Clean Water Project for our community in need.” Carmenita Solaese, SVSG Junior President
The youngest member of the Leilua family at Falealili, 5 year old Tavita Leilua will no longer struggle to carry buckets of water from the Puna o Talapool to assist with his family’s daily needs, thanks to the water tank donated by the Ponifasio Lawyers, Aute Gas and Federal Pacific Finance.
When the SVSG youth members visited the Leilua family to assess the needs of the family following their request with SVSG for welfare assistance, Fotuaivili Leilua, the head of the 8-member household pointed out barrels of water in which his family relies upon for this necessity.
The family is connected to the main water pipes that service the whole village. However, for a family that lives on a $40 - $60 budget a week from its plantation, it is always a struggle to stretch this income to cover the children’s education, food, electricity and the water bills. As such, their water is usually disconnected and hence their reliance on water from the Puna o Tala pool, about 1km from their home.
Since November 2018, the SVSG Juniors have been fundraising and soliciting support from its local and international supporters to ensure that underprivileged families like Fotuaivili Leilua have access to clean water every day.
Thanks to the combined donations from Tuala & Sarona Ponifasio of the Ponifasio Lawyers, Afamasaga Opeta Siilata of the Federal Pacific Finance and Toleafoa Elon Betham of the Le Aute Gas, the Leilua household now has a stable water supply with the installation of their 1,000 litre water tank next to its house.
According to Ms. Carmenita Solaese, the SVSG Junior President, “the lack of access to clean water is a struggle faced by many of our families that sought welfare assistance with SVSG, hence the decision by the SVSG youth group to reach out and do something about it. Globally, it is the SVSG Juniors contribution to the achievement of one of the SDG Goals for Clean Water & Sanitation.”
The SVSG Juniors continued with its Clean Water Project to assist the underprivileged members of our community.
The two young men, Franziska Sione and Mane Su’a, who are fronting the ‘Breaking the Cycle: Men & Boys Engage to End Violence Against Women’ for Samoa Victim Support Group are heading off to Netherlands this weekend.
The men of change will meet up with partners from 4 other international organisations from Spain, India, Sri Lanka and Madagascar for a Study Tour hosted by the Emancipator, a Dutch organization in the Netherlands for men and gender justice, and the 5thmember of the ‘Breaking the Cycle’ Partnership. SVSG makes up the 6thmember of this men of change partnership.
The social norms on masculinity, wherein characteristics such as being tough, aggressive, dominant and strong are accepted and promoted; is a global problem and is not confined to a community.
However, according to Jens Van Tricht, the founder of the Emancipator and the host of the Study Tour in Netherlands, “The impact that we have as six organisations – with the limited funding and resources we have – is small while facing this huge challenge. But we believe that both men and women will benefit from gender justice."
As for Franziska and Mane, the practicality of the best practices adopted by each of the organsations in this international partnership is overwhelming. From grassroot advocacy to changing masculinity views to recruiting men of change, these best practices are effective if blended in well within the local context.
For SVSG, its involvement with the Breaking the Cycle of Violence: Men and Boys Engage to EVAW and to Promote Gender Equality Projecthas seen SVSG’s advocacy program for the court referred offenders of violence, working on changing mindsets in men about masculinity and getting them to become part of the solution.
Franziska and Mane will participate in the Netherlands Study Tour from 6 – 10 May 2019.
A group of students, parents and teachers from the Sacred Heart College, a Catholic Marist College from Auckland New Zealand, visited the children at the Campus of Hope while in the country.
Bearing in kind and monetary donations of $1,000.00, the visit was inspiring for both the visitors and the children, given it was the school’s first ever visit to the Campus.
For the children of hope, the inspiration came from the Auckland based Samoan-students trying their best to put up the perfect performance of Samoan entertainment to cheer the children up.
It was a good laugh, with a valuable lesson for everyone about the importance of ones own roots, culture and identity.
According to Ana Leilua, one of the parents that accompanied the student’s visit, “It was a humbling and blessed experience not only for our boys but for us as parents to see the wonderful work you do for our children.”
So blessed that before the visiting school departed for New Zealand, another donation load of food, fruits and water supplies, First Aid Kits and $1,000.00 was presented again at the SVSG main office in Apia, to further assist SVSG with the children’s daily needs. One of the school teachers, Mr. Francis Stowers who presented the additional donation to the SVSG Office vowed that the Sacred Heart College will be back.
“Thank you so much to all the teachers and parents for coordinating the first ever visit by the College to the Campus of Hope. It has proven to be an inspirational experience for everyone involved. Last but not the least, I acknowledge with gratitude Mrs. Telesia Tanoai, a long serving member of the SVSG (Auckland) who liaise with SVSG on the visit from the start.” Siliniu Lina Chang, SVSG President