The Buddying up program in which the Samoa Victim Support Group and the International Labour Organisation have been working on to get the child vendors back to school, has been a success. A total of 30 child vendors participated in the 10-day program from 21 – 30 January 2019. With the Program coming to an end, there will be new beginnings for 12 vendors ages 6, 7 and 8 who should be enrolled for the first time as primary school students before the end of February 2019.
SVSG’s ‘next step’, is to source out sponsorship for these children’s education covering birth certificates to school uniforms to enrolment fees and other miscellaneous costs.
For 10 years old Faustina Aperaamo of Falelauniu, she is the proud recipient of a scholarship worth $1,000 courtesy of Mr. & Mrs. Eli Tagi of New Zealand, to cover Faustina’s education for the whole of 2019. Due to financial hardships in her home, Faustina has been out of school for 2 year.
For the rest of the child vendors ages 10 to 17, opportunities are available to attend the Hot Soup Skill Building training program carried out by SVSG at the Campus of Hope currently funded by the Office of the US Embassy.
But looking back to the child vendors journey from Day 1 up to this second to last day of the program, the SVSG Juniors, have achieved so much more than they have set out to do; the children are now more disciplined, they have learnt the importance of respect, working as a team, looking after each other; most of all, the children have valued the importance of education.
How can they not when they have visited workplaces to challenge them to reach for the sky. Apart from the visits to the Fire and Emegency Services Authourity, the Ministry of Police, the children also visited the TV3, the Samoa Rugby Union, the Samoa Observer, the Radio 2AP, and Taumeasina Island Resort.
Today, in giving back to the community, the child vendors and their youth buddies cleaned up the town area from the Flea Market at Sogi to the Black Sand beach at the Apia Waterfront. It was a fun activity that taught the children to be responsible for our environment.
The ‘graduation ceremony’ for the child vendors will be held at the Campus of Hope at Tuanaimato on Wednesday, 30 January 2019 at 9.00am where the children will be awarded with Certificates. Special awards for the Best Buddy and for the Most Disciplined Buddy will also be presented. With the ending of the Buddying up Program, new beginnings are now set for its partcipants.
The Initial Meeting for some of the networks of Breaking the Cycle: Men and Boys Engage Project to end violence against women, hosted Samoa Victim Support Group from 21 – 25 January 2019, ended well for the youth of Samoa.
This was through the signing of three separate Memorandum of Understandings between SVSG and the three participating organizations at the week-long global meeting, namely the Centro Rural Joven Vida (C.E.R.U.J.O.V.I.) Spain, Emancipator in Netherlands and the Centre for Health and Social Justice in India
It has been an outcome that will see the SVSG Juniors opened up to capacity building and/or expert sharing of experiences through South-South exchange programs with its new partners, officiated through MoUs signed during the farewell function.
Held at the Campus of Hope Tuanaimato, they were farewelled in style with traditional dancing from the St. Andrews Youth of the Catholic Church Faleula, the Taupou Manaia Dance Group, and the Sisters of Hope; the fire dance from the male residence of the Campus, and the live band by the SVSG Junior.
While new strategies on breaking the cycle of violence against women will see the SVSG Juniors advocating for changing mindsets in men and boys about masculinity, the youth will also continue with its role of being the voice for the voiceless, as per its Buddying up program with child vendors, that was rolled out at the same time as hosting the global meeting.
The SVSG Juniors is Samoa Victim Support Group’s succession plan. Over the years, SVSG has been paving the way to ensure that the youth members under the group will be strong and ready to take up their role as future leaders.
Exciting times are ahead as two representatives from the SVSG Juniors, namely Mr. Franziska Sione, the SVSG Junior Coordinator, and Mr. Mane Su’a, the SVSG Child Protection Officer are preparing for the second round of international gatherings for Breaking the Cycle Project in New Delhi India, in March 2019.
Much has been said about the children’s right to education, the exposure of the children to danger on the street as vendors and how a nation’s future lies with our children.
However, on Day 2 of the Buddy up program by the SVSG (Juniors) and the child vendors, what came out clearer from observing the child vendors under the Program is that, they are excited to learn, just like all our children.
The boys started the day learning about our culture, taking up the young untitled men’s role during the ava ceremony to welcome the delegates to the International Youth Meeting hosted by the Samoa Victim Support Group. It was at this ceremony that they got to meet Tomasi Peni of the International Labour Organisation, the donor for this program. The girls on the other hand joined the SVSG staff at the office for its normal prayer meetings every Tuesdays and Thursdays morning
The workplace tours that followed saw a transformation in attitude towards learn, not only for the child vendors, but more so for the youths that they are buddying up with. At the Fire and Emergency Services Authority, Commander Kueni Alatimu took the children for a tour of the facilities, explaining the basics in safety during an emergency. The children were curious and there were lots of questions. Most noticeable was how the children and the youths scribbled away in their exercise books as they updated their diaries on their learning adventure.
From FESA, the next stop was at the Ministry of Police, where Inspector Tologatā Misieliota Tamaleaoa, the Assistant Commissioner of the Community Engagement Unit danced through his demonstrate to the children on the Ministry’s role for a safer Samoa.
Culminating a long day of learning was a lunch enjoyed by the children and their youth buddies at the Pinati Restaurant; again, for most of them, it was the first time they have sat down and enjoyed a meal in a restaurant.
It has been an exciting day of learning for the Buddying up program. Seeing the eagerness in their eyes as we went from place to place, their curious questions, all along, clinging onto their youth buddies, it has been a rewarding experience.
The possibilities are numerous, as the opportunities opened up by getting the child vendors to learn and be excited about it, will eventually lead them back to the classrooms.
The Initial Meeting for the 12 months project with the Centro Rural Joven Vida (CERUJOVI) Spain was officially opened today at the Travellers Point Hotel, Malifa.
The participants from India, Netherlands, Spain, Sri Lanka, Madagascar were welcomed by the host, Samoa Victim Support Group, through the traditional ava ceremony performed by the SVSG Juniors.
The opening of the Initial Meeting was well attended by representatives of SVSG’s partners from the Ministry of Women, Community & Social Development, the National Health Services, the Fire & Emergency Services Authority, the International Labour Organisation and Digicel Samoa.
Pastor Kurt Fatupaito of the Potters House Christian Church Vaitele officiated the opening with the Word of God, reminding the gathering about the men of God’s responsibilities to their families, their wives and their children, to live in peace and harmony, not violence.
As the lead organistion for the Project, Ms. Katarzyna (Kaska) Reyes Czechowicz acknowledged the support from SVSG in hosting the Initial Meeting. “Samoa Victim Support Group’s motto is ‘We Support; We Help; We Care, We are your family, and since we arrived, we felt like part of the SVSG family.”
Speaking on the project, Ms. Czechowicz reiterated on the importance of breaking the cycle of violence in our work to address violence against women while promoting gender equality, as per the Project: Breaking the Cycle of Violence: Men and Boys Engage to End Violence Against Women and to Promote Gender Equality.
The 12-months project includes the Initial Meeting in Samoa, a Seminar in India, a Study Tour in the Netherlands, a Training Program in Sri Lanka and the Global Youth Gathering in Spain.
For SVSG, to be a part of this multi-partnered project is an opportunity for its youth to be further empowered to stand up against violence towards women, engaging men and boys in breaking the cycle of violence.
The Initial Meeting is for five days from 21 – 25 January 2019 at the Travellers Point Hotel, Malifa.
The youth groups under the umbrella of the SVSG (Juniors) gathered today at the Campus of Hope, Tuanaimato to kick start its first activities for 2019, with its Buddying up Program with Child Vendors.
Funded by the International Labour Organsation, 30 child vendors from Vaiusu, Tafaigata, Falelauniu and Nuu-fou were buddied up today with SVSG (Junior) youths from the Luatuanuu CCCS Youth, the Fasitoo-uta Youth, the Shrine of the Three Hearts Youth the SVSG Youth Empowerment Program, and the Sisters of Hope.
George Komiti, the SVSG (Junior) youth from Toamua opened the program with a prayer, followed by the keynote address by Eli Tagi of WE Accounting and Business Services in New Zealand. As a qualified Charterd Accountant with an Accounting Firm established in New Zealand in 2011, Eli Tagi, also of Satapuala and Sataua, spoke on the importance of having and education. “It doesn’t matter which school you go to ….. whether you are rich or poor, what matters is that you have an education, and that you try your best.”
Ligi Toomata, the SVSG Village Reprentative for Vaiusu encouraged the children as a mother, reminding them that both the children and the parents have a part to play in the children’s education.
A representative from the Emanicpator in the Netherlands, who is here for the Youth Global Meeting hosted by the SVSG here in Apia, also attended the official opening of the SVSG and the ILO Buddying Up Program.
Following the formalities, the child vendors and the youth members were buddied up based on their age and gender. There was a Buddy Registration, photo sessions and an opportunity for each buddies to get to know each other, before they presented to the whole group. While it is still early in the program, we have seen how the youths have shown patience, love and support towards the child vendors.
Out of the 30 child vendors participating in the Buddy up Program age 7 – 17 years old, 95% of them have never been to school before, and as such, needs a lot of help with writing their names, reading the basic learning.
For the next 10 days, the SVSG (Juniors) will ensure that they will support these children through their learning journey. Activities for the remaining of the Buddy up program will include visits to different workplaces, giving the children an exposure to workplaces besides the streets, thereby encouraging them be educated.
In partnership with the International Labour Organisation (ILO), Samoa Victim Support will official launch the Buddy up Program with Child Vendors on Monday, 21st January 2019 at the Campus of Hope, Tuanaimato.
The Program aims at addressing the child vendor problem in Samoa where the vendors as young as 5 years old are exposed to maltreatment and/or exploitation from working on the streets.
While the majority of children are preparing for the beginning of another school year, the child vendors continued to work on the streets as employers for their families.
As such, the youth members under the SVSG (Juniors) sub-group will buddy up with a child vendor to influence some form of mentality change towards working on the streets. More than 30 child vendors have been registered to take part in the Buddy up program, with buddies drawn from close to 10 church youth groups registered with the SVSG (Juniors).
Part of the program will include the child vendors visiting some of the workplaces around town to give them an idea of what safety in the world of work relates to. According to the International Labour Organisation, “Child labour is a violation of fundamental human rights and has been shown to hinder children’s development, pontentially leading to lifelong physical or psychological damage.”
The expected outcomes of the program include improving self-esteem of the child vendors and their progress through the Hot Soup Skill Building program coordinated by SVSG; and/or the enrolment of some of the child vendors in the mainstream education.
Samoa Victim Support Group will host the Initial Meeting for some of the networks of the MenEngage Global Alliance from 21 – 25 January 2019 at the Travellers Point Hotel, Apia.
The Meeting is coordinated by the Centro Rural Joven Vida (CERUJOVI), a non-profit organization based in Spain. It will be attended by representatives from five partner organisations for the Men & Boys Engage Project, such as the Emancipator in Nethelands, the Youth First in Madagascar, the Foundation for Innovative Social Development in Sri Lanka, the Centre for Health and Social Justice in India and Samoa Victim Support Group, Samoa.
CERUJOVI is a center of rural development, which works on comprehensive programs for the development of rural communities. It also works in all the sectors of the population, especially those who are more disadvantaged, such as the youth, children, women and elderly.
SVSG’s involvement with the Men & Boys Engage Project is through its youth sub-group, the SVSG (Juniors), whose participants will join the MenEngage Global Alliance in being empowered through capacity building and fostering network with other partners to the Project.
By building on the capacity of its youth and fostering youth relationship with international partner organsiations, this is all part of SVSG’s succession plans as the Group look towards its youth sub-group, the SVSG (Junior) to take on the future direction of SVSG.
Following the Project’s Initial Meeting in Samoa, there will be a Seminar in New Delhi India in March 2019 and a Study Tour in Amsterdam Netherlands in May.
SVSG is looking forward to welcome the participants of the Initial Meeting for the Men & Boys Engage Project to Samoa.
In September this year the findings of a public inquiry into family violence in Samoa were officially released, and uncovered extremely high levels of violence against women and girls.
Data from the inquiry indicated that 9.5 per cent of the female respondents reported being raped by a family member in their lifetime.
The story of 18-year-old Leilua Lino is of a girl turning tragedy into a cause to empower survivors of sexual violence — having been raped by her own biological father at the age of nine, and being bold to testify against him in Court and later raise awareness in primary schools on child abuse — for the benefit of children across Samoa.
Her testimony in Court — despite her mother’s plea that he was a “good man” — proved crucial in ensuring her father was sentenced to 29 years imprisonment.
Last month Leilua received international recognition for her work at the Samoa Victim Support Group, when she was announced as one of three finalists for the International Children’s Peace Prize 2018, as her primary-school and community-focused awareness has reached over 3000 children and compelled over 100 children to report abuse, according to the Amsterdam-based not-for-profit organisation KidsRights Foundation.
The courage that she is showing and the lives that she is impacting in community schools in Samoa and in the communities makes her a nominee for the Samoa Observer People of the Year 2018.
Speaking to the Samoa Observer recently, Leilua said she came from a poor family and her mother sold cucumbers to raise her and her seven brothers’ school fees.
Her life changed when her father started drinking and would beat her up in rage.
“When I was young, my relationship with my parents was very good, I used to love going to school. My school experience had its ups and downs.
“But everything changed when my father started drinking, it changed his ways. My father was a good man, he always goes to church, but when alcohol was introduced in his life he stopped going to church.
“At the age of nine, my whole life turned upside down. It never crossed my mind that my own biological father could do something like this and that was when he raped me at a young age,” she said.
Her mother did not believe her when she told her of the incident, according to Leilua.
“As I cried myself to sleep every night, the thought of my own mother not helping me tore me apart from within. My mother would always tell me, after it happened, that my father was a good man. But I pleaded with my mother that I needed her help. My cry for help was not heard and I used to wonder if there was a reason for my existence, because no one loved me, even my own blood.”
Leilua’s abusive father eventually stopped her from attending school, and ordered that she stayed home and did the house chores. On Sundays, she found solace in the church’s Sunday school class, and one day opened up on her abuse by her father with best friend Rosalina.
“She (Rosalina) advised me to seek help because I was young and my situation was not something that could happen to me at that age. She told our pastor if he could spare his time to talk to me.
“I then shared with our pastor Lio and he asked me three times if I am really in need of help and I said yes, please help me. Our pastor contacted Samoa Victim Support Group (SVSG) who sent a representative to speak to me about what happened,” she added.
Leilua moved to the SVSG — who then helped her to file a police statement that incriminated her father — and opened a new chapter in her life, by becoming an “ambassador for peace” and reaching out to children exposed to abuse through her Peace Garden and raising awareness.
“I created peace gardens in our campus which have helped 200 children to recover from trauma. I was set on becoming an ambassador of peace, to change lives of those that suffered the same fate as mine to convince them in life they are not alone; there is always someone out there that can give a helping hand.
“In life, I want to be a light that is shone upon those that have no voice; I want to dedicate my life in serving God’s purpose and not of my own desires. In the end I had the chance to forgive my own father of what he did to me not for him but for my own peace.
“In the bible it says that if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins your Father will not forgive your sins,” she added.
Samoa Observer By Adel Fruean , 30 December 2018
Weightlifter Feagaiaga Stowers was just 17 years old when she won gold at the Commonwealth Games held on Australia’s Gold Coast in April.
It was a crowning moment for perhaps Samoa’s brightest young athlete.
And Stowers’ star shines even brighter given the darkness that surrounded her upbringing. A survivor of abuse, there was a time when Stowers used to think her life didn’t mean anything.
“Not being able to be with family is the saddest thing,” she told the Samoa Observer in 2016.
“I used to be afraid of the outside world and I thought that everyone was just as evil as the people who hurt me.”
She was taken in by the S.V.S.G Campus of Hope in 2013 and the only person she felt she could trust was ‘Mama Lina’, the SVGS president Siliniu Lina Chang.
“Feagaiaga has come a long way from a shy and hopeless survivor to a champion that she is today,” Siliniu said in a statement after the Commonwealth Games.
She said Stowers was one of the girl survivors of violence that took up weightlifting as part of their rehabilitation programme in 2015 through a partnership with the Samoa Weightlifting Federation.
“Through weightlifting, she found a way to release her anger and her sense of hopelessness.”
S.W.F president and head coach Tuaopepe Jerry Wallwork told the Samoa Observer after the Commonwealth Games that he saw potential in Stowers the first time he had met her.
“Feagaiga is a special young lady. I think when I say special, she’s had a bit of tough upbringing.”
He said he is happy that weightlifting has saved her and given her the right path to follow.
“We just needed to instil the discipline, the drive, the direction to guide her.”
He said she’s a quiet young lady, and rarely says a word even to her coach who she works with daily.
“Even when she’s injured, she still doesn’t say a word, so I have to find out from some of the senior girls that she’s injured.”
In an interview with Samoa Observer in 2016, Stowers said that Tuaopepe gave her hope by introducing her to weightlifting, the sport which gave her a second chance at life.
“Once I got to train with Tuaopepe and I saw how amazing it is to be noticed and appreciated by people, that really cheered me up.
“So coming in here has made me realise that what happened in past is the past but it is up to us to choose which pathway to take, it is up to us whether we dwell on the past or start a new beginning for our own self.
“He didn’t look at my background; he didn’t look at my past but he focused on how I can become somebody in the future.”
Tuaopepe said she has the same natural talent as Ele Opeloge, and is every chance to emulate the Olympic silver medallist lifter.
“So for her to reach this level at this young age, and she’s only been lifting for three years, or little bit less than three years, is fantastic.”
Stowers told the Samoa Observer after winning gold at the Commonwealth Games she never thought it could happen.
“What I have learnt from this competition is to not run away from challenges; God will always make things possible.”
She said the medal wasn’t just for her, but also her family, friends, country and teammates.
Stowers will always be grateful to Siliniu for pushing her to do something that matters in life.
The S.V.S.G president said Stowers’ success was humbling, not just for the gold medal, but because of her successful reintegration into society.
“With confidence and determination, the once shy teenage girl is now a Champion in her own right; a survivor living life to the fullest outside of the Campus of Hope.”
That former shy teenage girl is training every day for upcoming International Weightlifting Federation World Cup in China next February, before the Pacific Games is held in Samoa in July.
Her long term goal is the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, where she’ll hope to match or better Ele Opeloge’s silver medal at Beijing 2008.
Given all that she’s come through in her first 18 years of life, you would have to back this member of the Samoa Observer’s People of the Year 2018 to keep on shining.
Samoa Observer By Thomas Airey , 30 December 2018
President of SVSG Samoa