The Good Samaritan behind the Cookies for Charity, Miss Seirosa Lamb has done it again; baking cookies not for herself, but for those in need.
This time, it was for the children survivors of sexual and domestic violence cared for at the Campus of Hope shelter facility.
Presenting a cash donation of $3,000 to the President of the Samoa Victim Support Group, Seirosa wrote a message titled:
‘To all the brave heroes at SVSG. With alofas from Seirosa’
In front of the children, Seirosa expressed her gratitude and admiraation for the children for their bravery.
“I can’t imagine what its like to go through what you have gone through, but
I hope that God continues to give you the strength to go through everyday. Because what you are going through is nothing any child should ever have to go through, and I’m so sorry for what has happened. I hope this donation will help in any simple way.”
Accompanying Seirosa was her mother Su’a Hellene Wallwork Lamb on behalf of Seirosa’s father Travis Lamb and the rest family.
What a kind gesture from such a lovely young lady Seirosa.
The children of hope continues to be blessed by the generosity of the community and the gratitude expressed towards the children for being brave.
“Thank you so much Seirosa for honoring God’s commandment of loving your neighbours as thyself. We look forward to seeing you again to help with the young ones reading, whenever you are available. Thank you also to your parents Travis & Su’a Hellene Lamb for supporting you in your charity work. God bless you and your family always.” Siliniu Lina Chang, SVSG President
The 4th session of the Self-esteem Workshop focusing on a woman’s worth, strength and purpose had brought together close to 70 nofotane women from the villages of Sagone, Foailuga, Salailua, Siutu and Taga in Savaii; providing an enabling environment to create support networks and mentorship for the nofotane women. The workshop is the learning component of a 2-year project to support the sustainable income generation & the self employment of nofotane women who have been economically empowered under Samoa Victim Support Group’s previous programs.
The project is fully funded by the the European Union through the Civil Society Support Program.
It is a project that in line with the overarching vision of SVSG and its support services, ‘to ensure that victims of crimes and the most vulnerable are well supported to be safe and in control of restoring their lives through quality services.” It involves being their for the beneficiaries of our services through continuous monitoring and evaluation processes.
The nofotane women SVSG works with were once victims of domestic violence. They tolerated the violence because to get up and leave their husbands, (who were usually the breadwinners in the families), would mean the nofotane women would not be able to financially support themselves and their children, and will become burdens to their own families upon their return home.
They were unemployed, they had very low self-esteem, they views were seldom sought during family and community matters; and most were basically without a voice. To think that Nofotane are regarded as servants; are sometimes referred to as ‘lima ma vae’ which translates to ‘hands and feet’; their place is in the kitchen, and they do not have a voice or paid employment opportunities; makes you cringe
However, the economic empowerment program for unemployed nofotane women survivors of violence from 2016 – 2018 paved the way for a change in attitudes and mindsets at the village level towards the nofotane women, and their lack of parcitipation and recognizition in family and village matters.
We have seen the rise of the nofotane woman entrepreneur; whose earnings are now supporting her family through these difficult times, and whose confidence is evidence by her contribution in family discussions, in putting her children to school and in valuing herself as a mother.
Take for instance the mother of 7 children, Luaipou Talau of Samauga in Upolu, now a nofotane woman of Taga. Prior to joining the Nofotane Program, she used to collect 100 coconuts and sold them for $10.00. It was a hard life as she struggled to provide for her family’s wellbeing, put her children to school, attend to their medication when they are sick, while contributing to the village and church matters. Luaipou learnt commercial cooking during SVSG’s livelihood training in 2017 and she is now supplying the school canteen with a variety of bakery products. In addition, she had recently tried handicraft and is also selling woven hats and bags around the village and nearby ones. Luaipou’s story is one of the many stories of change shared during the workshop at Taga. According to Luaipou, “from working hard to working smart, I am not only enjoying life as a self-employed nofotane woman, but most importantly for me, I am now spending more quality time with my immediate family.”
The measure of Luaipou’s success is therefore the quality time now spent with her husband and children. The peaceful and happy household were what she used to long for, which she is now enjoying thanks to the confidence brought about by being empowered.
According to the SVSG President Siliniu Lina Chang, “SVSG is grateful of the funding support from the European Union through the CSSP, which had assisted us in helping the unemployed nofotane women survivors of violence re-write their stories of struggle and abuse, to successful ones now being told over and over again by their families.”
The child rights movement to ‘Stop the Violence Against Children’ currently underway in Savaii by the Samoa Victim Support Group continues to gather momentum.
The movement is lead by Ms. Leilua Lino, the 2018 Finalist for the International Children’s Peace Prize and the 2019 Winner for the Commonwealth Secretary-General’s Innovation for Sustainable Development Award. Twenty more children survivors of violence cared for at the Campus of Hope shelter facility joined Ms. Leilua in what has been described by Reverend Leusoalii Laki of the Methodist Church at Vaipua as “the children survivors pleading with the parents to stop abusing their children, while appealing to the children to ‘speak out’ against violence.”
In humility, we witnessed how the village and church leaders have accepted the children survivors and their message of Hope into their communities, with respect. Such mentality influence by the children over their elders is a challenge to our cultural norms, which to SVSG, is a welcoming challenge in the context of child protection.
The children’s singing and testimonies were reciprocated with silent tears and warm embrace, as the effectiveness of the children’s plea to ‘Stop the Violence’ reaches the hearts of the eight village communities in the Salega, Alataua West and the Falealupo constituencies.
And as the children traveled across the villages from the south of Savaii at Sagone to the far east at Tufutafoe, its followers increases by the day, who will in turn continued to advocate for an end to violence, even when the children returns to the Campus.
The child rights movement had therefore gathered momentum in Savaii, which is vital in setting the platform when the movement reaches Upolu in the coming months.
So as the year 2020 of the global pandemic and all its uncertainties closes to an end, we find courage in seeing hope through the eyes of our children, and respect through the acceptance by our parents of their collective responsibility to fight for our families right to live, free from abuse.
But there is more that has been gained from the trip to Savaii. According to the SVSG President Siliniu Lina Chang, “this movement has also enabled us to assess the ability of the children survivors of violence under our care to fit back into the community once they are reintegrated. We are used to long roads to recovery, but seeing the children survivors flourishing as they advocated for an end to violence, is part and partial of the rescue and restore nature of SVSG’s work.”
“Thank you to UNICEF Pacific for supporting SVSG’s child protection work for the children of Samoa.
Last but not the least, thank you to all the people of Savaii for your hospitality towards the children. A special thanks to the ‘Alii & Faipule’, the church leaders and the women’s committee of Sagone for hosting the children in what has been one of the most memorable experience for this ‘home away from home’ trip. We came as invited guests, we stayed as friends, and left as family. To God be the Glory always.”
More than twenty children survivors of violence under the care of Samoa Victim Support Group, have joined the fight to end violence against children, by taking the message of Hope throughout the communities in Savaii this week.
The road trip is a child rights movement, initiated by the children survivors of violence cared for at the Campus of Hope shelter facility. It is the children’s way to remedy the wrong committed against them by preaching the message of Hope through songs, skits and dialogues with village communities. The road trip had started in Savaii and will continue to cover the whole of Upolu and Manono-tai in this national movement.
The villagers of Taga, located in the district of Palauli and renowed for the Taga Blowholes in Savaii, were the first to welcome the movement. It saw the coming together of the Taga community, from village to church leaders, parents, youths and children alike, to embrace the message of hope, and to pledge ownership of their collective responsibility for the safety of our children.
Through singing, dancing and sharing significant change stories, the resilience of the children brought healing to the village of Taga themselves.
The stress from the day’s work, the uncertainty with the global pandemic and what not, were all set aside as the elderly joined in the singing, while the mothers put on their dancing shoes. It was a beautiful family night of thanksgiving, at seeing the children survivors who were once victims of violence, stood tall and proclaimed the message of Hope to our people.
We also saw how the children’s awareness program against violence had started to break the rhythm of social norms surrounding violence in all its aspect; that it is not a private matter, but a collective responsibility of a community. Village and church leaders of Taga came forward to register as SVSG Village Representatives; youth groups joined the SVSG Junior Youth Alliance as agents of change, while the empowered nofotane women of Taga joined in the awareness and shared their stories of hope to inspire other unemployed women. The children survivors and residences of the Campus of Hope are therefore helping to build a stronger community to stand up against violence, as it continues to escalate in Samoa.
“It is in this connection that SVSG acknowledges the partnership with UNICEF Pacific which enabled us to mobilize so many children for this movement. Thank you also to the leaders of Taga, for accepting the message of hope as shared by the children. You have all reaffirmed in us the belief that you can take a child out of the village, but you can never take the village out of the child. Our children are our blessings, and they deserve to be treated as such.” Siliniu Lina Chang, SVSG President
As we are still adjusting to the new norm in our daily lives due to the COVID-19, while we are also forced to deal with domestic violence becoming an epidemic during a pandemic, the goodness of the Lord continues to shine through the compassion of humanity.
Take the Stunzner Family of Alafua for example, where Klaus & Norma Stunzner’s legacy of giving is continued on by its children and grandchildren.
There is no doubt the effect of the COVID-19 has had on the socio-economic status of the average Samoan family. Stress and anxiety have lead to escalating rates of domestic violence, and the new United Nations research recording 68% of Samoans having lost income due to the pandemic, is a clearer indication of what had mostly triggered violence nowadays; the loss of income.
And as the number of abused children at the Campus of Hope had gone past its normal average intake of 70 children, to the 100+ women and children now in residence, we here at Samoa Victim Support Group are starting to feel the brunt of the pandemic.
But the coming forward of the Stunzner Family to join the others in lending a helping hand means that a stronger community alliance is what we needed the most. This is especially the case as we visited underprivileged families and witnessed how trying these times really are for us all.
Seeing the joy on the Stunzner grandchildren’s faces as they helped their mothers and aunties to carry the supplies of formula milk, bulk food supplies, toiletries and even vegetables, gave us hope. Because it is the compassion behind the donation that has a lasting impression on us as we continued to serve our community in need.
“Thank you so much Klaus & Norma Stunzner and your lovely family for always stepping in to lend a helping hand when we need it the most. Together, we are building a stronger community alliance to resound our ancestors cry, ‘Samoa mo Samoa’ as we fought for liberation back in the days; only this time, we are standing together against the COVID-19 pandemic, fighting for our right to live.” Siliniu Lina Chang, SVSG President
As our country heads into the long week end to celebrate Father’s Day as usual this time of the year, Samoa Victim Support Group is appealing to our people to take extra precaution in whatever you do.
If you are at home with the family, enjoy quality time with parents and children while maintaining peace among yourselves, you deserve it. If you are out with friends, respect each other’s spaces and don’t be afraid to walk away when trouble seems to strike. If you are on the road, drive safely and mind the children and the elderly pedestrians.
With Samoa being one of the very few countries worldwide that is currently spared from the wrath of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are nevertheless dealing with the destructive force of ‘anger’, that like “a thief, it comes only to steal, to kill and to destroy.”
Which is why SVSG stands stronger to advocate for violence free families and communities while raising awareness on its Help Line services.
As a support service organization, we feel the pain of the families of those involved in fatal incidences of the past weeks; from a hit and run incident to a murdered youth, while another was seen tortured in one of the most inhumane video that has gone viral from our peaceful Samoa.
So what better gift we should present our fathers on this special day other than being joyful and appreciate what God has blessed each and everyone of us with?
But in the event that you have witnessed physical violence and/or torture, have heard of a verbal abuse incident either as a neighbor or an extended family member, or even noticed something abnormal about a friend and you are not sure what to do, please call us on the toll free Help Line number 800-7874.
“It is in this connection that we thanked the CEO, management and staff of both the Digicel (Samoa) and the Vodafone (Samoa) telocommuncation companies for co-sponsoring the free Help Line. Last but not the least, thank you Louisa Apelu and the team at the Spotlight Initiative for supporting SVSG’s work in the context of the COVID-19.”
“Together, we can become bridges by which the peace and grace of our Lord can reach the abused and the most vulnerable among us. Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers of Samoa here and abroad.” Siliniu Lina Chang, SVSG President