The opening of the first domestic violence refuge for abused women in Samoa, operated and managed by the Samoa Victim Support Group (SVSG), provided more than just walls of protection for women, as the Group enters into this new chapter of its support service journey. The infrastructure came at a time when domestic violence is rife in Samoa, especially in light of the COVID restrictons and the effect on the most vulnerable communities.
Referred to as the Sakura House, the women’s refuge is named after a Japanese cherry blossom tree, which represents hope, beauty and new life. It is name more fitting for the targeted beneficiaries – the abused women and their children, while allowing SVSG the opportunity to pay tribute to the donor agency behind this historical work, the Japanese Embassy of Apia. Sixteen years now into SVSG’s operation as a service provider for victims of violence, we can finally put the fear of housing and assisting the women within our own homes, behind us.
And the response from the community since the Sakura House opening has been overwhelming. SVSG received a donation of $5,000 from Tuituioaiga and the staff of DMC, $1,000 from Tuiaopo Andrew Ah Liki, taking the total monetary donation received during the opening to approximately ST10,000. Then we had Mr. Bernie Poort and the team from the ANZ Bank (Samoa) Limited, who started the refurnishing of the house on the same day of its opening, through supplying double beds, single beds, a fridge and a gas oven, and other miscellaneous supplies valued at ST10,138.00. Next we had Mr. & Mr. Ken Newton of the CCK Trading Limited donating a freezer, utensils, toiletries etc valued at ST8,000. Big Bear put in 10 pillows, thanks to Heidi Paul and family. And the management have since met with Tuiaopo Andrew Ah Liki who pledged to sponsor a security system CCTV for the Campus. The estimated cost of running the Sakura House is ST144,000 a year based on an average admission of 4 women and 20 children a week, which is equal to 208 abused women and 780 children a year.
Within a week of its opening, the Sakura House became a place of refuge to four women survivors of violence and their 15 children. These women were either thrown out of, or ran away from their abusive husbands. What these women had in common were not just their physical scars and mental instability, but all four women were pregnant. The abuse they experienced were therefore directly at them while indirectly affecting their unborn children. It created a whole new support work for SVSG as their health became a priority.
The Sakura House therefore represents more than just walls of protection for the abused women. It is a place of refuge for when they are forced out of their homes during violent situations; it is a place of hope when traumatized by violence, and for others, a place where new beginnings are considered a must, in order to survive.
SVSG is a women lead organization. SVSG is also a child safe organization. As such, the Sakura House had brought the dual roles of the organization together within the walls of protection that it provides.
As the Chair of the SVSG Board, I acknowledge with gratitude and appreciation the patronage of our supporters thus far. Thank you for your charity and generosity which enabled us to help 4 women and their 15 children during this time. But our work has just begun. With the current admission rate, we have to cater for the well-being, the health, emotional and phychological needs of vulnerable women and children. If you wish to donate, there is a Drop-off Zone for in kind donations at the Campus of Hope at Tuanaimato. For monetary donation, you can email Sam Fruean on firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. As a community, we have a collective responsibily to care and to support the most vulnerable, as that defines the goodness of humanity amongst us all.” Georgina Lui, Chair of the SVSG Board