As a non-governmental organization, Samoa Victim Support Group and its work is sustained by donor funding, grants, donation and volunteer support. While funding are usually for a specific project or area of work, volunteer support is relied upon to fill the gap in the human resources required to keep things moving. And we have been blessed with a variety of capability contribution from local and international volunteers; some are qualified experts in their field of work and have taken time out to help SVSG, others are working towards completing a qualification, and have chosen to take up internship with SVSG.
Regardless of who they are or what they do, what we have in common with our volunteer family of supporters, is the passion to lend a hand.
Last week saw refresher training by Mr. David Sutton, a psychiatric nurse from New Zealand, volunteering for SVSG. The training was for staff and facilitators of counseling program for court referred offenders of violence. It covered mental illness awareness and suicide risk, from the New Zealand perspective and accepting that the experience of mental illness may be different in Samoa.
Mr Sutton is in Samoa for three months with his wife Kathy Basire who has been volunteering with SVSG as well. Ms Basire is a criminal lawyer who has spent ten years as a Crown Prosecutor in Christchurch. She has been working in the office assisting with case work, document preparation and with the Nofotane project as well as training the SVSG juniors on the experience of sexual violence victims. Both Mr Sutton and Ms Basire have spent time at the shelter helping with the under 3’s. They have 5 children of their own and are due to return to New Zealand on 7 July.
From Netherleands, we have a young intern, Miss Simone de Vries, who chose SVSG for her intership towards her Social Work eduation at the HZ University of Applied Sciences. She volunteered at the School of Hope and later at the main office for 3 months, from March to May 2017. She has returned home and continues to keep in touch with SVSG. “Thank you so much again for the opportunity of working with SVSG. I loved it and I'll probably look back on this for the rest of my life as such a good experience.
During the months of March, April and May I worked as a volunteer at SVSG. The first four weeks I taught English and Maths at the School of Hope. Here I got to meet the wonderful and strong women and children living and working at the Campus. I loved this, although I'm not a natural teacher. After the Easter break I went to work at the SVSG office, which was something totally different, but also very nice, since I got to spend more time with my colleagues. During my time at the office I helped working on the Nofotane project. I found this very interesting, because SVSG is trying to better the position of Nofotane women in Samoa, while at the same time not trying to change the Fa'aSamoa.
In my three months I really feel like I got a pretty good glimpse of Samoan life. I got to experience the good things about Samoa, but I also saw some problems in society. And that's where SVSG steps in and helps and cares about the people that really need it. I will not forget my time with SVSG and I'll try to be an advocate for SVSG in the future.” Simone de Vries
SVSG is grateful to the support from its family of volunteers. There has been an exchange of knowledge and skills, most importantly, amazing experiences. “Thank you so much to our family of volunteers for making a difference through your services.” Siliniu Lina Chang, SVSG President
Ms. Wera Hack, a representative from the Embasssy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Wellington was in the country for official duties and yesterday, she visited the children survivors of violence and sexual abuse cared for at the Campus of Hope.
The purpose of the visit was to officially handed over to SVSG bunk beds for a project funded by the Germany Embassy in Wellington.
The financial assistance from the Germany Embassy would not have been possible without the referral of an application for the small scale project, from Mrs. Pauline Marsden, a German living in Apia with her family,. At a total cost of ST26,000 or Euro9,639, the funds enabled SVSG to supply bunk beds including mattresses to cater for the increasing number of children cared for at the shelters.
Following the hand-over, Ms. Hack spend time with the children. Seeing her sitting there among the children, connecting with them at their level, was special. And SVSG is grateful of an addition to its family of supporters, as Ms. Hack had pledged to continue to look out for funding opportunities to help the children at the Campus.
SVSG President Siliniu Lina Chang was at the Campus to acknowledge the support from the Germany Embassy. “Thank you to the Embassy and the Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany in Wellington, H.E Gerhard Thiedemann, through Ms. Wera Hack, for the grant to refurnish the children’s beddings. To Pauline Marsden, thank you for pointing out this funding opportunity to SVSG, now we have additional beds for the children.”
A 19-year-old victim of sexual violence wants to send a strong message to anyone who is sexually violated within their home that there is hope.
Calling herself an ambassador for victims, the young girl said boys and girls who are scared to come out for fear of repercussions should know there is help.
The young girl is a victim of two separate sexual cases. The incidents occurred within the comfort of her home.
The first case involved her stepfather while the second case was with a man her mother tried to hook her up with, in return for money.
In an exclusive interview with the young girl, she made it clear that she wants the public to know her story and why she wants to tell it.
Due to the suppression order her identity cannot be disclosed. Housed at the Samoa Victim Support Group since 2014 this young girl said a recent incident encouraged her to make this stand.
“While staying here, I overheard another case similar to mine, and it’s eating me inside that this little girl did not know that there is help,” she said.
“In our homes, this is where we should feel safe, this is our comfort zone, this is where I can be me.
“But certain families do not afford that, some families, kids are being violated and that’s why I want to make it known there is hope.
“The Police and S.V.S.G can help,” said the young girl.
While the staff at SVSG’s main office was busy with its usual support work this afternoon, as well as preparing to travel to Savaii for another event in the morning, an employee from Inalani’s Catering dropped off 50 plates of food from his employer Ms. Mara Faletoese, for the children at the Campus of Hope.
Did we order them? No; But we were blessed with these food supplies from Mara and the staff as donation for the children. “Thank you so much Mara for sharing your blessings with the children at the Campus.” Siliniu Lina Chang, SVSG President
Culminating the multi-media campaign currently underway to raise awareness on the Nofotane Project, SVSG and UN Women Fund for Gender Equality will be hosting a Public Forum for our community in Upolu on Tuesday, 13 June 2017 at the Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi Building Sogi, from 9.00am to 1.00pm.
Twelve months now since the project was implemented in July 2017, SVSG has completed Phase I, where SVSG village representatives have been trained on advocating for the Nofotane Project in their village communities. Being cultural sensitive, SVSG knew that for the Nofotane Project to be successful, it has to be supported by the village and church leaders.
Phase II of the Nofotane Project is the multi-media campaign and the public forums (1 for Upolu and 1 for Savaii), aim to raise awareness with the general public on the Nofotane Project.
So SVSG and the UN Women FGE call on all members of the public who would like to know more about the Nofotane Project to come join us on Tuesday, 13 June 2017 at the Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi Building, Sogi at 9.00am to hear from speakers including the UN Women Program Coordinator in Samoa, the Ministry of Commerce, Industry & Labour, the Women in Business Development Incorporated, the South Pacific Business Development on the relevant parts of the Project.
Information booths will also be set up as well as a display of products from nofotane women who have gone through previous livelihood programs and have set up small businesses of their own.
Phase III will finally see nofotane women trained on livelihood skills for 12 months as part of their economic empowerment. At the end of the program, it is the goal of SVSG that nofotane women of Samoa have improved access to sustainable employment and increased participation in domestic and community matters.
The Queensland Reds visit to the children survivors of violence at the SVSG Campus of Hope was an “eye opening experience for the boys,” according to one of the rugby stars. The team took time out from their trainings to spend time with the children and after a tour of the facilities, they were surprised by the set-up, that there is a safe place for the many abused children cared for at the Campus.
They saw how the children were flourishing because of the love from those who cared for them, and immediately, they connected with the children. They played with their young fans, they held babies at the nursery, sang and danced with the older children, and they even got to see the ambulance donated by the Queensland government ambulance services.
For some of the rugby stars, they wanted to come back as they felt a connection with the children, being part of the extended SVSG family of supporters. This is humanity at its best.
What was obvious from the Queensland Reds visit was how SVSG has developed because of our love for the children, even with the limited resources we operate with.
So come Friday night when the rugby stars get down to business, they can count on the children at the Campus of Hope to cheer them on, from the security of their dormitories.
SVSG President acknowledged the management of the team for including a visit at the Campus of Hope in their community outreach program. “Thank you so much for taking the time out to visit our children; it reassures them that they are very special and are loved by so many people, despite their past experiences.” Siliniu Lina Chang
A great privilege for the children from the Campus of Hope to be invited by the EFKS church at Malie, to share the Mothers Day with their congregation. A beautiful experience and an emotional Sunday for everyone.
Rev Savelio Leota delivered the beautiful sermon, and encouraging everyone to work together to bring peace to every home.
This day was definitely a blessing to everyone!
In keeping his word to continue providing assistance for the children at the Campus of Hope, the American Samoa Governor and the Patron of the SVSG (American Samoa) Lolo Moliga and his good lady Mrs. Cynthia Malala-Moliga made a generous donation for the children, during their visit to the island this week.
100 x cartons of wahoo were presented to the SVSG President at the main office Apia, to assist with the children’s daily caring.
Last year during the Independence celebration, the Governor and his good lady accompanied the Leone village to the celebration and took time out to visit the Campus for the first time.
The Governor and his good lady were deeply touched by the children’s sincerity and acknowledged the support from the community and from the families in ensuring their safety and wellbeing.
SVSG President Siliniu Lina Chang thanked Governor Lolo and Cynthia for the huge donation to assist with the food supplies for the children at the Campus of Hope. “Thank you Governor and your good lady, the supplies came at the right time and as we go through these severe weather conditions, we are comfortable knowing that the children have."
We live each day to testify on the wonders of journeying together with the God of Miracles. As the theme for this year’s journey for the Samoa Victim Support Group and its family of supporters, we have shared as well as received God’s love.
The families, the supporters, the visitors, the volunteers and even strangers to us, have shared this love. At the Campus of Hope, the children survivors of life’s unfortunate circumstances have been blessed with the love of God, shared by those with the heart to give.
Take Sam Atoa and his family from Utah in America for example. Last week, the children were treated to an early Christmas celebration as they were showered with gifts, each given with a hug and a personal message. Bulk supplies of the food and toiletries were also donated. These will be rationed to provide for the children’s daily needs.
This is Sam Atoa and family’s tradition when in Samoa, sharing the love of God with the community, including a special visit to the children on Campus. Back in 2011, Sam and his children first visited SVSG and donated for the work. Six years now, Sam Atoa and family continue with this tradition of blessing others with what God has blessed their family with.
For the children, their smiles say it all. Through these gifts, the children were reminded that God loves them no matter what.
SVSG President Siliniu Lina Chang acknowledges on behalf of the SVSG Board, Sam Atoa and family for maintaining this tradition. “You first visited and donated for our children in 2011 Sam and since then, you have continued with this tradition in your family every year. Thank you for sharing the love of God with the children at the Campus of Hope.” Siliniu Lina Chang
Roslyn and her grateful mother will make that 2.00pm flight today, Tuesday 9th May 2017, to New Zealand for the emergency medical treatment required for her, thanks to the support of the donors who helped pay for their airfares.
At a total cost of ST2,629.40 for both mother and child to travel to New Zealand, SVSG started work on Monday with only NZD300.00 donation towards this need. We prayed for God’s love and he answered through Kerrie Keen Shoesmith donating NZD1,240.00, Soteria Lauvi Sopoaga Foster NZD300.00 and an anonymous donor NZD53.00. From Kerri Keen, she wished Roslyn well, “This is the balance for little Roslyn and her mum to fly to NZ for her operation NZ940.00. Good luck baby girl, this together with the NZD300 I donated a few days ago hopefully will change your life in a good way. All my love and best wishes.” From Soteria her donations came with a “God be with you” message for Roslyn.
This morning, we collected a total of NZD1,540.00 or ST2,630.25, enough to pay for Roslyn and her mother’s airfares for that 2.00pm flight this afternoon. This is all God’s favor, and we praise Him for always providing for us.
An emotional mother received their return tickets this morning at SVSG’s Office. She spoke of the hardship in trying to get her baby to New Zealand. “I gave up after being turned down numerous times from those whom I have asked for help. Receiving this ticket from SVSG means a chance for Roslyn to live, and I feel the warmth of being a part of the family. This is like a family to Roslyn.” Sofina Neru Tafili, Mother
SVSG President acknowledged the support from Kerrie Keen Shoesmith, Soteria Lauvi Sopoaga Foster and the anonymous donor, all from Australia. “Thank you for coming together at such a short time to help this child and supporting the work of SVSG. We ask that you remember Roslyn in your prayers.” Siliniu Lina Chang.