What we have learnt while being on the road on this 9th Day of the SVSG Measles Outreach is that yes, our people are grieving the loss of our precious children.
But the simplest gestures such as a hug, a pat on the back, a smile, a symbol of hope; are the reassurance that our people needed the most at this time.
A reassurance that as a, community, we do care. That we cry because we felt their pain; that we smile because we have to remain stronger. That we can see behind their brave faces and how much they are holding on, for the sake of their surviving children.
And that is where SVSG comes in as Family; to support, to help and to care for our people during these difficult times.
During this 9th Day of the Outreach, SVSG counseled 3 grieving mothers: 21 year old Petina Alesana of Letogo who lost her 9 months old daughter Sierra Alesana to the measles. She held on tightly to her 2 year old son Benjamin Alesana while talking to us; Next we had the 8 months pregnant Veronika Hala of Laulii. A very young couple, Veronika and her husband Pula are grieving the loss of their only child Joseph Hala to the measles;
Lastly, we visited Tilomai and her husband Saolotoga Ah Siu of Vaitoloa and spent some time with their 6 remaining children. The measles claimed the life of their baby daughter Hazel Ah Siu at 1 year old.
All of these parents called the SVSG Help Line for counseling support during this time of loss, and we gladly assisted them. And it was good timing that a donation of 30 assorted Gift Bags were donated by Ariana Paul of Tri Maori Charitable of New Zealand specifically for the grieving mothers of the measles epidemic. Included in the gift bags was a small red box containing a gold chain with a pendant of a butterfly inside a heart. According to Ms. Ariana, “tell the grieving mothers that since the butterfly had flown away, their hearts remain with them.” Thank you Ariana for the kind donation and the inspirational story behind it.
Thank you also to the donations received to date from Zachery & Margie Snyder of Utah USD100.00; Brian & Nelda Atkins of the Pacific Aluminium ST1,000.00; Sunrise Restaurant ST300.00, McCaw Lewis Lawyers of Hamilton New Zealand NZD1,000 and the staff of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) of Christchurch New Zealand NZD150.00. Through your generosity, we have been able to reassure our grieving families that we are here to support, to help and to care for them as Family.
As the SVSG Measles Outreach continues with its door to door assistance for families and parents who have lost children to the measles, and those with infected children, the youth sub-group of SVSG, the SVSG (Junior) had taken up the leadership role as the Response Team for the Outreach.
Led by the SVSG Junior Executive and its youth members, the Response Team basically takes up the monitoring and evaluation role; re-visiting families covered by the Outreach and were assessed to have an identified need for education and awareness on maintaining general hygiene and healthy living.
Together with the assistance of the SVSG village representatives, our youths basically worked with our families to dispose of plastics around their homes, getting rid of materials that became breeding grounds for the mosquitoes, and even talking with the children on the importance of washing hands. It’s the daily things that we overlook, yet, its vital to avoid the spread of the measles and other diseases. This is our solution to the problem at hand without being judgemental about the affected families and their situations.
And the youths enjoyed being there to support our most affected families, even it is to clean up around their homes.
For Tapuni Ioane Matautia of Faleula, who lost her 11 month old child to the measles, she was just overwhelmed by the sincerity of the youth’s willingness to help.
“Seeing them happily went about their work around my home feels like they are part of the my family. I am just so greatful of these young people and their compassion to help others.”
The Response Team is all part of the youths taking up a leadership role not only in responding to the measles outbreak, but most importantly, in building climate resilience measures within our families.
SVSG acknowledges its youth members from the St. Andrews Youth of the Catholic Church Faleula, the Assembly of God Youth of Satapuala, the Laulii youth, and the Salvation for Freedom Youth of Toamua. “Thank you for being the enthusiastic and responsible youths during this difficult time.” SVSG President Siliniu Lina Chang
As the SVSG Measles Outreach team travelled about 35 minutes out of town towards the western coast of Upolu, there was the usual silence in the vehicles as we neared Fasitoo-uta, the designation for Day 8 of the Community Outreach.
This is because of the anticipated mood within the households affected by the measles as we have experienced while on the road over the last 2 weeks. But the Team’s first stop was a bright yellow house that greeted us with a ‘God is Good’ writing on wall. And this reminder was enough to get us through the 118 residence of the 20 families at Fasitoo-uta reached by the Program.
With the assistance of the SVSG village represetatives at Fasitoo-uta namely Leaupepe Feausi and Akenese Matavao, we were able to visit 2 families who have lost loved ones plus 18 others whose children have been infected by the measles and have all been recovered.
The highlight of the Outreach at Fasitoo-uta were the smiles we were greeted with by the families. These are the parents and children with fresh wounds from the loss of loved ones. These are the most vulnerable; especially the children and the underprivilege, yet, through their smiles, it was their way of getting through all this.
And this is the resilience of our people with unwavering faith; that despite the measles epidemic and the darkness that it brought to our journey as a country, God is Good.
Thank you so much to the residence of Fasitoo-uta for helping us help others better. Because while our focus is to lend a helping hand to our families and our communities most affected, we have been struggling to remain stronger. This is due to the early morning start to the village communities and the late nights at the office to update reports and prepare for the next visits.
The SVSG’s counseling team observed that the resilience of the affected residence of Fasitoo-uta is helping to heal the psychological wounds and rebuilt as a community affected by the measles. They are becoming active survivors rather than passive victims.
And this positive attitude is encouraging the SVSG volunteers who are part of the Measles Outreach team. While gathering data on affected families, completing needs assessment, and distributing the donated supplies, our young volunteers were seen smiling their way through it all.
Thank you to the donations received to date from the Management & Staff of the Samoa Life Assurance Corporation $200; Mr. & Mrs. Ken Newton of the CCK Trading Limited $500; Wilson Mckay (Barrister & Solicitor) of New Zealand $5,022.25; and Mr. Suresh Mahboobani of Thailand USD100, as it enabled us to buy basic food and toiletry supplies including diapers and milk for the affected children and their families.
“Be encouraged Samoa, because together, we can smile at the storm.” Siliniu Lina Chang, SVSG President
Despite losing her 6 months old granddaughter after being infected with the measles from 2 children she massaged as a traditional healer, Ta’afi Faleupolu of Toamua does not regret helping the children who survived the measles.
This is from a mother who is currently looking after her family of two daughters on her own as her husband is currently working in Kiribati. According to Ta’afi, “I knew that I’ll be exposing my family to the measles from still accepting children for their normal traditional massage, but that is my job as a traditional healer, I have to help the children.” Baby Taualofa was 6 months old when she passed away at home after losing her battle with the measles.
Down the road from Ta’afi’s house, we found an elderly grandfather on his wheelchair. There does not seem to be any problem at all as his 8 children are all grown between the ages of 15 – 36 years old.
But behind the grandfather’s brave face, he was mourning the loss of two of his grandchildren born off his eldest daughter and fourth son. According to the grandfather, his fourth son was infected by the virus from his workplace and that was how his grandchildren got the measles. And instead of being bitter towards the whole situation, the grandfather remained calm, and was grateful that his children were able to being part of the support system called by the government when the state of emergency was declared for Samoa. Talking about patriotic spirit amidst the personal loss to his family, this grandfather was thinking beyond his own family, towards the safety of the many children being affected.
These are altruistic grandparents whose unselfish acts of kindness supersede their own emotional wellness. And these heroic stories from the measles epidemic is worthy of being told, as it highlights humanity amidst the adversities.
But we wish we could say the same for Iulai and So’o Taele whose 7th child and the youngest at 10 months old died at home from the measles on 29th November. However, when the SVSG Outreach visited this family, the parents pointed us to a spot infront of their house, covered by a blue tarpaulin, as their dead child is still at the morgue awaiting coronial inquest.
The family seem so lost, with any sense of hope found in their unwavering faith that God will get them through this whole ordeal. They just wanted to have their baby laid to rest.
And as the Outreach continues, grieving parents and affected families have used the Help Line to alert SVSG of the need for assistance. At the same time, supporters are calling in to lend a helping hand. Thank you to Bluebird Lumber and Hardward for the donation of $800, Tuala & Sarona Ponifasio of the Travellers Point $1,000 and Digicel Samoa for the donation valued at $10,000 ($5,000 shopping vouchers at Ah Liki Wholesale and $5,000 credit to assist the affected families).
Lastly, thank you to the SVSG Village Representatives of Toamua, Ale Komiti & faletua and Vaine for walking together with us to reach our families in need at Toamua.
The SVSG Measles Outreach was greeted by one of the elderly village represetatives of Faleū Manono, Leiataua Lesā Setefano, and 15 other village leaders who are representatives of SVSG.
It was a positive sign of community resilience and support during this difficult time for our people; and a reassurance that together, we can face any storm.
And such support is very much needed by our people at Manono, who continue to struggle physically and mentally not only in caring for the children been affected by the measles, but also in dealing with the grief from the loss of our precious children taken way too soon.
The mothers held on to their sick children with so much anxiety while the little ones reached out to them in their moments of pain. It leaves an aching feeling in the heart just to witness such moments as we visited 6 affected families comprised of 16 households at Faleū and Salua Manono-uta. SVSG assisted a total of 39 children and 47 adults during the Outreach at Manono-uta.
One of the grieving mothers is 25 year old Enite Lefeau, who is 5 months pregnant, and had just buried her 9 months old daughter. She has 2 surviving children ages 6 and 2 years old. Enite shared with the SVSG Counselling Team on her anger and bitterness towards the whole situation. “I don’t know who to blame, so I just vented out at my parents, my husband, even my surviving children.” This is because when Enite’s 9 month old daughter was infected by the measles, Enite could not take care of her due to her pregnancy. It was Enite’s mother that was tasked with the caring up to her daughter’s death. “I only got to spend 2 hours with my daughter before she was buried, and I felt like I have been robbed of my right as a mother to care and to say goodbye to my daughter.”
And as the Outreach team visited the other families affected by the measles, we have to remain positive for the surviving children, as they too seemed all so lost. As such, it was a relief to see the smiles on the young girls faces upon putting on their beautiful dresses courtesy of the Dress a Girl Around the World of NZ.
SVSG believes in hope; and that despite the catastrophe that our country is in at the moment, the sun will always shine.
Today, SVSG acknowledges the kind donation of $2,000 from Laulu Henry & Moana Westerlund of the Blue Bird Construction. Thank you also to Mrs. Georgina Lui, the Chair of the SVSG Board for the Hyundai van allocated to assist SVSG in reaching many more families affected by the measles.
To our Givealittle donors from all over the world, we pray for God’s blessings upon you and your families for your generous support.
The 24 hour Free Help Line number 800-7874 operated by Samoa Victim Support Group has been busy with calls from parents in desperate need of help for their children amidst the measles crisis. Some required assistance for their children’s burial such as clothes; others required assistance with diapers, milk, and food to care for their children recovered from the measles and have been discharged from the hospital.
Even through the phone, we could hear the desperation in the voices of the parents; most have been caught off guard by the turn of events and needed someone to blame, hence they vented their frustration towards the whole situation through the Help Line.
And we don’t blame our people as most of the callers are families and parents of children victims of the measles from underprivileged families. Some just couldn’t afford a bus fare to travel to town to seek assistance which is what makes the Help Line more convenient.
On Wednesday, the SVSG Measles Outreach assisted a grieving single mother whose 4 year old son lost his battle with the measles. The mother walked from the hospital to the SVSG office for help in getting a white suit for her son. Through the kind donations we have received for the Measles Outreach, we were able to provide for this mother’s request. It really breaks the heart to see the pain and the sorrow through the eyes of this mother; but it has been a sight now becoming a norm to us as the Measles Outreach continues through the villages.
Later on the same afternoon, SVSG received a call on the Help Line from a 65 year old grandmother. She needed milk, diapers and food for her 2 grandchildren who have just been discharged from the hospital. The mother of the 2 grandchildren is 9 months pregnant and as such, she could not care for her young ones recovering from the measles. It was late at night when the grandmother was presented with the donations of a carton of milk, a packet of diapers, a bag of rice, boxes of noodles and toiletries. The relieved smile from the grandmother when presented with the donations was reward for a long day’s work.
The next day, a father of 5 children from called the Help Line twice during the government shut down period from 6am – 5pm, desperate for food for his children. Apparently, 3 of the children have been hospitalized due to the measles, including a 1 month old baby. Fortunately, all the 3 children have been recovered and continued to take medication at home. When the the curfew was lifted allowing vehicles back on the road at 5.00pm on the same day, the SVSG Measles Outreach team visited the family to assess their situation, and to present donations as requested.
We found the father infront of a 10 x 10 foot wooden box which is home to this couple and their 5 children. Inside the house was the mother and the 3 children who looked anything but recovered from the measles. It was a sight that broke the heart as the reality of the struggle faced by our underprivileged families on top of the measles epidemic, hits home. The was the only breadwinner in the family but when their 3 children were hospitalized, he quits his job to care for his other 2 children at home.
Thank you so much to Mr. & Mrs. Ken Newton of the CCK Trading for the donated bags of clothes as well as Ms. Josephine Stowers for the same. Today also, we received $1,000 from Tofilau Sharlene Lesa of the Tofilau Fashions Samoa and $500 from Muriel Lui & Precious Chang of the Lui & Chang Lawyers to assist with the Measles Outreach. At the same time, our families and friends from around the world are contributing towards the outreach through the Givealittle page. Through financial and in kind donations from our supporting families and friends, we are able to help the anxious parents during these desperate times.
Day 4 of the SVSG Measles Prevention & Helping Hand Outreach found the family of the first child whose life was claimed by the measles epidemic, still in a mourning state. The parents of 8 months old Hope Talamoni of Faleula, who passed away on 20th October 2019, smiled through tears as they pointed members of SVSG to Hope’s grave. The pain is felt by the remaining 9 members of this extended family, and SVSG being there is to reassure the Talamoni household that they are not alone. The grieving parents are now undergoing grief and trauma counselling with SVSG as part of the Outreach assistance being provided.
One of the families visited was that of Lapiki Motusaga who live about 1km inland of Faleula. There are 3 couples living together in this household with the youngest member at 11 months being one of the victims who passed away on 25th November 2019. Two other children from this family have been infected by the measles and were in isolation for the protection of a young mother who is 6 months now into her pregnancy. The Motusaga family do not have access to clean water and this is a concern for the SVSG’s Outreach program. A Response Team of SVSG youth and village representatives will carry out the necessary clean up work at the Motusaga household for the wellbeing of its remaining members.
The third family has 18 members including the 8 grandparents and parents age 70 - 77parents, 4 young adults and 6 children ages 7 months to 10 years old. The youngest member is 7 months old and is infected by the measles.
SVSG sat down with the adults in each of the families we visited and went over with them the basic cleanliness and hygiene solutions necessary to help contain the spread of the virus. Families were encouraged to have their members vaccinated while toiletries and food supplies were presented before the Team left each household.
Seeing small graves in front of family homes has now become the norm as the SVSG Measles Outreach continues; while the raw pain of death is obvious on the faces of the struggling parents and the surviving children, SVSG is comforted by love and support shown and extended from our families and friends here and abroad.
To date, we have received USD3,000 from the Taito Family Ministry and its Lend a Hand initiative to assist with the SVSG Measles Outreach. Thank you Fia Taito and the family for being part of the SVSG family over the years. You have not only supported SVSG’s programs for the children at the shelter, but here again, you have extended your family’s help to support the children victims of the measles epidemic and their families.
Last but not the least, SVSG President Siliniu Lina Chang acknowledges the assistance from our supporters and former volunteers of SVSG who have donated through the Givealittle page specifically set up for the SVSG Measles Outreach.
From the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Vietnam, Denmark, Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, Sweden, Austria, Belgium, Australia and New Zealand; we have seen humanity at its best during thes e trying times. As a family, we remain stronger.
The newly cemented small graves in front of the homes of our families visited by the SVSG Measles Outreach are by far the most amongst realities of the measles epidemic that has now claimed close to 60 lives of children in Samoa.
Day 3 of the SVSG Measles Prevention and Helping Hand Outreach took us to the underprivileged families living further inland of Leauvaa. Out of the 7 families visited, two of the families have lost 3 children to the measles; an unborn child from a mother 4 months into pregnancy, a 12 months old and an 18 months old.
There is a feeling of hopelessness within each of the households; the elderly grandparents continued praying for that much needed spiritual calmness; the young parents of the measles victims seemed all so lost; while the remaining children clung to the photos of their loved ones as they struggled to make sense of all the chaos.
For the 19 year old Noella Fa’atauu’u who is 7 months into her pregnancy, she smiled to us through her tears, as she talked fondly of her 12 months old daughter Noel, whose life was claimed by the measles virus on 18 November 2019.
Here we were, performing grief and loss counseling, yet, we were encouraged by the resilience of this young woman. She is drawing her strength from the support of her elderly parents, her siblings and her village community.
On the other hand, we had the 23 year old Taumaia Lio Willie, the pregnant mother who had lost her baby on 30 November 2019 as she was admistered with the measles vaccine. We found Taumaia still in bed, surrounded by her 3 and 2 years old daughters while her husband is remaining strong for the family.
A total of 10 families were assisted by the SVSG Measles Outreach at Leauvaa, comprised of 24 adults and 32 children. From the total of 56 people covered by the Outreach, 8 have been vaccinated in which 3 of those are children. There is a high risk of the measles spreading within each household due to the majority of them yet to be vaccinated. These families have been referred to the Disease Surveillance Team for vaccination schedule.
And while the SVSG Measles Outreach to our families in need and those in mourning continues, it has been a struggle to remain strong. Especially as we are constantly updated by the National Operation Centre of the increasing number of fatalities from this epidemic, majority are children. “Lord have mercy on the people of Samoa,” remains our silent prayer.
To the SVSG village representatives of Leauvaa namely Vaifale Soe, Taupou & Mapa Enosa, Peato Ah Sang, Upualise Samuelu and Tupana Sili, thank you so much for standing together with us as family.
Last but not the least, thank you Toleafoa Elon Betham and the staff of the CMN Company Limited for always responding positively to our request for assistance. Your donation of $500 will go a long way in supporting the SVSG Measles Prevention & Helping Hand Outreach especially our families who have lost loved ones due to this measles epidemic.
At the end of Day 3 of the SVSG Measles Outreach, we were able to reach 24 families: 10 families in Laulii (Day 1), 4 in Vaiusu (Day 2) and 10 in Leauvaa (Day 3); comprised of 58 adults and 94 children ages new born to 18 years of age.
Grief and trauma counseling were conducted for the parents and the families of 6/60 children whose lives have been lost to the measles virus to date. And as the child protection agency in Samoa, SVSG is taking its role seriously, and with compassion, because the future of Samoa is at risk, with the continuing loss of children’s lives due to the measles epidemic.
In response to the escalating measles crisis that is crippling our country to a state of mourning, Samoa Victim Support Group (SVSG), in its role as a support service provider, is taking a proactive approach to prevent and to lend a helping hand.
Referred to as the ‘SVSG Measles Prevention & Helping Hand Outreach’, the initiative was co-launched by the SVSG Patron Hon. Tuisugaletaua Sofara Aveau, Board Member Mulipola Anarosa Molioo and President Siliniu Lina Chang. The Outreach will be carried out for 3 weeks from 30 November to 21 December 2019.
The aim of the Outreach is to prevent as much as possible the spread of the measles, especially to our underprivileged families. This is through awareness raising in each families on the importance of household hygiene, how to care for the affected children, counseling for the traumatized children and their parents, and the provision of basic necessities.
While the Outreach targets close to 900 SVSG village representatives and their families throughout Upolu, Savaii and Manono-tai, the priority will be on the SVSG’s families living in the Vaimauga and Faleata districts. It is SVSG’s way of reaching out and reassuring our families that despite the severity of the deadly measles epidemic, SVSG is always here to support, to help and to care as Family.
Please support the SVSG Measles Prevention & Helping Hand Outreach by pledging a donation that will go towards the provision of supplies, printing awareness materials and travelling to our people in need. You can call the SVSG office on 25392 or email email@example.com should you need more information.
Together, we can prevent the spread of the measles in our families, while lending a helping hand to those at risk of being affected.
Day 2 of the SVSG Measles Prevention and Helping Hand Outreach highlighted the need for grief counselling support, for the parents and siblings of the children whose lives have been claimed by the measles epidemic.
At Vaiusu, the SVSG Outreach found the parents of the 3 year old measles victim still in shock; and except for the fact that a new grave is erected infront of the family home, it is obvious that the parents are going progressing through the denial stage. It just breaks the heart; and to think that this is only Day 2 of the Outreach, yet, we are growing weary from crying. This is normal as we are only human.
The Vaiusu Outreach covered four families comprised of 25 children and 13 adults, with 5 of these adults being SVSG’s village representatives for Vaiusu.
Aimed at raising awareness on prevention and cleanliness, the provision of counseling support to the grieving families and the basic food supplies, we are glad that we have taken the initiative. Because for the families that we have visited so far, they needed the reassurance that as family, we will stand together to see this catastrophe through.
Thank you once again to our donors thus far, the SVSG Melbourne, Fexco Samoa, Dress a Girl Around the World, and the latest donor, Lend a Hand of Seattle Washington courtesy of the Taito Family Ministry. Your support enabled us to reach close to 100 of our people since the beginning of the SVSG Measles Prevention and Helping Hand Outreach.
Last but not the least, the SVSG President acknowledges the compassionate shown by our SVSG village representatives namely Lini Toomata, Aitilotilo Henry & Laumata Crawley and Fala’i & Telesia Lupeni as we walked from families to families during the Outreach program.