Overcoming the uncertainty of the current global health crisis, with the goodness of humanity, is something that we as a community in solidarity is embracing during these challenging times.
This is what Samoa Victim Support Group had experienced this week, through the outpour of love and support from our people. It has been a source of encouragement as the work of love had inspired others to lend a helping hand.
We had the ANZ Bank here in Samoa through its Chief Executive Officer Mr. Bernie Poort, management and staff donating $25,000 to support SVSG’s work on domestic violence, on the rise at this time.
Then we had Eka Arp and the team from the “Helping Hands” donating miscellaneous food, toiletry, children supplies and shopping vouchers valued at $1,500 to assist with relief packages for families requesting welfare through the Help Line.
St. Vincent de Paul also came on board this week offering relief packages for families requiring welfare assistance. Thank you Peter Bendinelli and the team for always being on the look out for ways to support SVSG and its work.
For callers to the Help Line from Savaii, we had the church ministers working in partnership with us to attend to our people’s needs in the big island. Thank you for your generosity and your prayers.
Inspired by SVSG’s work during this time, a group of women who wished to remain anonymous, put together a donation of $1,000 presented to the office. In addition, they are willing to volunteer as part of our Response Team.
Throughout this time, SVSG’s village representatives have been on hand whenever we alerted of assistance required by our families in need. How grateful we are of this coming together of a community in solidarity, willing to be a part of the Response Team to lend a helping hand.
Together with the Spotlight Initiative (UNDP) here in Samoa, the UNICEF Pacific, the Samoa Stationery & Books and our supporting partners, we have formed a strong community alliance to counter the challenging impact of COVID-19.
It is in this connection that SVSG remains humble; thanking God in all circumstances.
“Thank you Lord for your provision, without which, we would not be able to be of service to our people in need. To our families out there, continue to look out for each other. Call us on the 800-7874 Help Line when in need of assistance. Together, we will see this crisis through.” Siliniu Lina Chang, SVSG President
Eleven households relying on subsistence agriculture for a living, plus the children residence at the Campus of Hope, are the beneficiaries of a grant received by the Samoa Victim Support Group from the Australian High Commission under its Direct Aid Program (DAP).
Valued at ST20,000, the grant is to assist with sustaining the income generation activities of nofotane women farmers under SVSG’s economic empowerment program. This is through purchasing garden tools, seedlings and a 1 x 1,000 litre water tank per household; 8 in Upolu, 3 in Savaii and 1 for children of hope.
Since the successful completion of the SVSG’s economic empowerment project in 2018 with the UN Women FGE, the Group continues to source out funding opportunities to support the sustainability of self-employed nofotane women, borne out of this program. Most of the funding to date benefited the commercial cooking earners, the handicraft making and the weavers.
With the DAP grant, SVSG can now support our nofotane women farmers, who have braved the sun with minimum resources to cultivate their land and harvest enough crops to provide for their family needs, with a little surplus to sell in the local market to ean an income. Most of these nofotane women farmers are from the rural villages; some live further inland from the main road, hence have limited access to water.
Part of this project is for SVSG to link the nofotane farmers with markets for their products, and we have established co-partnerships with hotels in Upolu and Savaii to this effect.
With preparation for the COVID-19 being the norm in our daily lives today, the grant from the Australian High Commission could not have come at a better time.
“Thank you so much to Her Excellency Ms. Sara Moriarty for granting us this opportunity to further support our nofotane women farmers through the Direct Aid Program.” Siliniu Lina Chang, SVSG President
Nine underprivileged families under the Samoa Vicctim Support Group’s welfare support from Satapuala, are counting their blessings as recipients of 1,000 litres of water tank each, courtesy of funding support from the business community.
In 2019, a group of lunch mates connected with the SVSG (Junior) to offer his assistance to assist with the youth group’s ‘Access to Clean Water Project’, for underprivileged families who do not have access to this vital necessity.
Funds collected from this group enabled the SVSG (Junior) to purchase 9 x 1,000 litre of water tanks which were dispatched starting from the Christmas period of 2019 to early 2020.
In acknowledging this tremendous support on behalf of the Satapuala residence benefiting from the donated water tanks, Pastor Sale Uelese of the Assembly of God Satapuala thanked the Good Samaritans for financing the need for clean water for the underprivileged families in Satapuala.
“Close to 100 people from new born to elderly in their 80s from these 9 families are enjoying access to clean water from the water tanks now installed for each household, thanks to this very important initiative by the SVSG (Junior).” Pastor Sale Uelese
The delay in the installation was due mainly to some of the families requiring repair to the rusty roofing iron of their houses, necessary for water catchment to the tanks.
One of these families is Fetaiai and Lialiai Viliamu. Fetaiai is a carpenter and earns $380 fortnightly. This however, is not sufficient to cater for all the family needs. Of all the challenges his family is facing, the problem with access to clean water is his toughest problem. It is a father’s responsibility to ensure the safety and the wellbeing of his family.
Water shortage leads to 3 days of no access to water supply and sometimes more than 3 days. Fetaiai’s concern was that the village water brings mole as well and this is a threat for him and his family. Every time they need water, they will have to walk 60km to fetch water. With the newly installed water tank, the Viliamu household is now accessing clean water every day.
SVSG President Siliniu Lina Chang acknowledged the coming on board of the business community, specifically this group of lunch mates, to make a difference in the lives of the nine underprivileged families of Satapuala. “Thank you to these Good Samaritans for always being on the look out for ways to support the work of SVSG for our people in need.”
The SVSG (Junior) clean water project continues as more and more families seek SVSG’s welfare assistance for clean water. The church youth groups in villages benefiting from the water tanks embraced the Project for its importance in ensuring our people access clean water.
As we continued to take precautionary measures for the COVID-19 pandemic, the clean water project is surely a blessing in ensuring that no one is left behind.
As the number of confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus worldwide have gone pass the 2 million mark, with close to 150,000 deaths to date, Samoa is amongst the few countries that remained free of COVID-19. With a mere population of 198,000, we do not want to imagine how far we as a nation, can survive should the virus reach us.
Miraculously for our people, we have been blessed with time; time to prepare and to rethink; time to resource and to restrategize, most importantly, time to reset.
This is because we have learnt that COVID-19 is much more than a health crisis. Look at us, still beyond the coronavirus reach, yet, we have seen the economic and social impact of the government orders as per the State of Emergency, and the relevant restrictions, on people’s daily routine.
From 41 callers during the 14-days SOE of 21 March – 3 April; to 92 callers recorded for the 2 weeks from 4 – 17 April 2020, SVSG’s Help Line records highlighted a community reeling in the economic and social impact of this health crisis. There were 9 domestic violence cases; 3 abused and abandoned children, 2 callers alerting SVSG of an alleged homicide in the village; 8 callers checking up on their mothers and children being sheltered, 10 calls from the Police outpost referring cases to SVSG (and vice versa), 5 callers from donors relaying their wish to help out and 11 requesting general assistance and counseling.
The Easter long weekend was the busiest time with a total of 44 callers requesting welfare assistance for the elderly, the disabilities and the children from very poor families. While SVSG was able to distribute some relief packages for these families courtesy of the funding support from the UNICEF, we have come to learn through welfare assessment that most of these callers were simply trying to take advantabe of the situation. This is very sad and disappointing as we struggled to ration the limited supplies that we have to assist those who genuinely need help.
This is really a time for all of us to reset. Think outside of your comfort zone and look beyond to the neighbor that is in need. Come together as a family in prayer at the end of the day for that spirutal nourishment most needed. Tune down your wants to the basic needs as our level of income decreases. Spend sensibly as we anticipate a recession in a couple of weeks or months down the line. Above all else, be mindful of the second greatest commandment, “to love thy neighbor as thyself.”
SVSG believes that if we use this precious time to reset:
In this challenging period, we are all exploring what we can do to help each other. And as a support service organization that prides itself on the value of Families, SVSG is appealing to our people to look our for each other as families. Call SVSG on the 800-7874 Help Line. It is free, works 24 hours and CONFIDENTIAL. Contact us also on our online support service such as SVSG Samoa facebook or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Remember the simple hygienic rules: wash your hands; stay at home; keep the distance; cover your mouth when coughing etc, because in this age of social distancing, we as an island nation are the original self-isolators.
This virtual connection and the Response mechanism we have in place to address gender based violence during the COVID-19 crisis are all made possible through the financial support from the Spotlight Initiative (UNDP) here in Samoa. “Thank you so much Louisa Apelu and the Spotlight Team for being accommodating of our needs.” Siliniu Lina Chang, SVSG President
After the two weeks State of Emergency as declared by the government of Samoa from 21st March to 3rd April 2020 to combat the spread of COVID-19, the number of callers to SVSG’s toll free Help Line number tell a story.
A steady increase in Help Line callers had been recorded, which implies a community that is slowly feeling the economic and social cruches of the pandemic measures.
There is a clear relationship between the uncertainty of the pandemic on people’s lives and livelihood; and the steady increase in Help Line callers as noted.
At the Campus of Hope, 5 mothers and a total of 16 children were fed, clothed and provided temporary shelter by SVSG during this two weeks period. They were sheltered in isolation at the Campus training centre away from the children’s dormitories. There were 9 children age 1 month – 1 year (4 boys and 5 girls); and 7 children age 1 – 8 years old (4 boys and 3 girls). All of these mothers and their children were victims of domestic violence. They were able to reach out for assistance through the Help Line.
As people have lost jobs or have lost access to employment, domestic violence and the need for welfare support have increased.
There were 21 domestic violence cases reported through the Help Line as a result of distress between couples due to loss of employment, and the inability to support the family’s daily needs. Being in close proximity to each other 24/7 due to the lockdown and the loss of employment had further fuelled tensions and arguments between couples.
Fifteen other cases called in for welfare assistance as the tension from being without a job had taken its toll, especially on the underprivileged families. Two of these cases have been complaints against people stealing others livelihood out of hunger.
According to the President Siliniu Lina Chang, “SVSG will remain on the alert to respond to our people’s call for assistance while providing counseling support, where relevant via the Help Line. At the same time, we will also monitor the interesting dynamics that are definitely contributing to violent tensions in the home.”
This virtual connection and the Response mechanism we have in place to address gender based violence during the COVID-19 crisis are all made possible through the financial support from the Spotlight Initiative (UNDP) here in Samoa.
In whatever situation you are in, know that you are not alone; SVSG is always here for you. Call us on the tool free Help Line number 800-7874
There is no doubt that the last few weeks have been hard. Across the world, we are facing an unprecedented larg-scale crisis for survival against the COVID-19. Here in Samoa, the 4th April 2020 will mark the end of the 14 days State of Emergency called upon by the Government on 20th March 2020.
The S.O.E saw the closing off of our borders, restricting the gathering of 5+ people, distancing and quarantine of people, to name a few. The priorities at this stage are prevention and safety. However, Samoa Victim Support Group had seen the general uncertainty within our families due to this crisis, perpetuating violence, hence compromising the safety we hope to maintain at this time.
As people are called to stay at home, others are losing their jobs, while the ones fortunate enough to continue working are faced with transportation problems with buses called to a halt. The result saw people being forced to remain in close proximity to their abusers, the laid off breadwinners struggled to feed their families, while the ones who used to commute to work via buses have to fork out a more expensive taxi fare. The uncertainty is perpectuating violence.
Over the last 2 weeks, SVSG had handled minor cases from families fighting over the rationing of their food during dinner; to severe matters where a husband allegedly run his wife down with a family car. Safety had been violated due to our people in a state of uncertainty.
For instance, SVSG evacuated a mother and her 6 children who called the SVSG Help Line at 5.00 in the morning, as the children have gone for a day without food, the father had been laid off from work. In another incident, a mother of 4 children reached out to the Help Line for assistance as her husband had threatened to kill her when he returned from work. SVSG worked together with the Police in evacuating this mother and her children from the village, to the safety of the Campus. SVSG had also applied for 4 Interim Protection Orders for the protection of the mothers involved in these severe cases.
The Help Line had never been busier than ever, as per the last two weeks, especially with women experiencing violence in the home while being on lockdown; from fathers stressed over the loss of jobs and even from young children crying over the phone for food. Interesting also, we have the ones who have everything going well for them, except that during these quiet times, they now have the courage to speak out, while remaining anonymous.
Safety! is therefore the surviving word for this pandemic, especially given that in crises like this, pre-existing social inequities are often deepened.
For those experiencing violence, especially those forced to stay in lockdown with their abusers, know that you are not alone. Help is not on Shutdown. Call SVSG on the 800-7874 Help Line. It is free, and works 24 hours.
For the ones who feel isolated due to the effects of distancing and quarantine, look at it as a critical time to pause, rest and reflect. There is always sunshine after the rain. Because as the Word for today says, Let us shield ourselves with that overcoming attitude: ‘This is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.’ (1 John 5:4).
“Stay safe everyone; and keep the faith.” Siliniu Lina Chang, SVSG President