For two years now, the owner of the Pearl MedSpa of Portland Oregon, Ms. Carol Robbins and her staff have been supporting Samoa Victim Support Group from afar. They have fundraised to help run the Campus of Hope for the abused and abandoned children. According to Carol, “it was my fear of being attached to the children that made me continued to support from the comfort of Pearl MedSpa.”
However, the more she got to know SVSG and its work through Mama Lina, the President of SVSG Siliniu Lina Chang, the stronger was her belief to see the place for herself, and she took that leap of faith. Closing down Pearl MedSpa branches in Portland Oregon and Scottsdale Arizona, Carol and her 14 team of staff and branch managers arrived in Samoa on Saturday on a hopeful mission, to understand the work of SVSG better, so that they can better provide support.
Celebrating 11 years of health and wellness from inside out, the Pearl MedSpa is 2 years short of when SVSG was first set up in 2005. However, there was a connection from the start. And that connection was the love for the children. “We came here to bless the children, see how we can be part of the hopeful mission, however, we were blessed in return. Those smiles, its simply amazing.” said Carol
Carol is accompanied by Pearl MedSpa’s General Manager Leuso McKenzie, who has travelled back and forth over the years to visit the children, discussed with the SVSG Executive the needs to sustain the shelter operation and organized fundraising events in Portland for the children.
The Pearl MedSpa team was welcomed by the SVSG Board during an ava ceremony performed by the SVSG village representatives, upon arrival on Saturday. This was followed by Sunday with the SVSG family at the Campus of Hope where the Chair of Board, Mrs. Georgina Lui thanked Carol and the Pearl MedSpa for showing SVSG that they care. “What you have done through this trip is to reaffirm our belief here at SVSG that distance and circumstances don’t matter, it is all about the heart and the will to lend a helping hand.” said Georgina
Included in the trip was a training for the SVSG family on trauma and how to deal with traumatized children by Dr. Bret Fuller, a psychologist that provides therapy for addiction, depression, anxiety, and a whole host of other life issues. The SVSG Board, Executive, staff, matrons, volunteers and the youth – the SVSG Juniors all took part in the training.
Teaching the girls life skills in manicure and pedicure, cooking, baking and how to take care of themselves as young women, all geared towards self-sustainability, that when these girls leave the Campus, they can use these skills to support and provide for themselves and their families.
A container of donated goods was devanned at the Campus as part of the trip by the Pearl MedSpa. Above all else, it is the fellowship that is most valuable, as the Pearl MedSpa team took over the carer roles at the Campus since they have arrived.
“To God be the glory always for connecting SVSG with people who are committed to sustaining this work further, for the abused and vulnerable members of our community.” SVSG President Siliniu Lina Chang.
My name is Melekuini, but my siblings at the Campus call me Mele. I am 18 years old but I spent the last 8 years of my life under the loving care of the Samoa Victim Support Group. I have 2 other sisters and 4 brothers, all of whom SVSG took under its care since 2009. Our parents are serving a life imprisonment sentence for a crime they committed against one of my sisters.
Today, I share my story of hope, because I would not have come this far if I have given up on hope a long time ago when I was without parents.
In June, I managed to start on my first job as a young adult. It’s but this positive experience is all new to me. I am an Office Assistant for a company in town. I am now a registered member of the formal labour, having my National Provident Number and my own Bank Account. Yes, here I am with my own Bank Card. It is such a humbling experience, and most of the times, I have to hit myself hand on the head, to realise that I am not dreaming.
On Saturdays after work, I will help out at the Campus, cooked for the children, helped them clean up the compound, wash the dishes or just hand around with the older girls and find out how they are doing.
On Sundays, I joined my other Hope Sisters for church, thanking the God Almighty for without Him, where would I be right now. With God on my side and SVSG as my family, I have conquered the impossible and live each day to share my story of hope.
One of SVSG’s little angels, Baby Penina Utuva of Samata-i-uta Savaii, has finally been called home. She had just turned 5 years old last Friday, on 19 October.
For 5 years, Penina had defied the odds against her ability to live, since that day in 2013 when the doctors notified her parents that Penina suffered from congenital hydrocephalus (an excessive accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain), and has very little chances of reaching 12 months old.
Today, SVSG joins Penina’s parents Utuva and Moega Timo, in celebrating the life of a fighter and a very brave angel. Despite her illness, there is always an excitement in the office every time Penina visited, as her smile was a reminder of God’s gift of life. Baby Penina was the youngest of 11 children. The parents rely on their plantation for a living. As such, they needed help, and in 2014, the parents sought SVSG’s welfare assistance for Baby Penina which continues until her passing.
Her birthdays were usually celebrated at the SVSG main office in Apia where Penina’s SVSG family gathered to praise God for his gift of life to our dear child. One year turned to two, three, four and now after her 5th birthday, she has been called home.
Penina is the last angel with congenital hydrocephalus out of the many others who were under SVSG’s welfare support, and have since passed on.
With the support from the Little Angels Foundation of New Zealand since 2016, SVSG has been supporting the daily caring of Baby Penina. A donation of $1,000 was received from the Foundation to help Penina’s parents with her funeral arrangements.
With the late Director of the Little Angels Foundation, Taa Lo Tam’s recent passing, the Foundation continues to honor his legacy towards the angels in Samoa. Faafetai lava Sepoima Lo Tam and the Board of the Little Angels Foundation of New Zealand for continuing to support the vulnerable children of Samoa.
We thanked Utuva and Moega for sharing the gift of Baby Penina with us. She has surely been our little angel, and one of a kind. Rest in love Baby Penina.
“To all those who have been part of Baby Penina’s life from day one until her passing, thank you for being there for her always. May our Heavenly Father bless each and every one of you for the love that you have shown towards the most vulnerable.” Siliniu Lina Chang, SVSG President
It was a night of sharing and networking as the SVSG Juniors, the youth group of Samoa Victim Support Group, reached out to the youth from St Andrew Catholic Parish of Faleula.
The event was in response to a request from a youth member of the Parish for the SVSG Junior to raise awareness with the St Andrew Catholic youth, on the support they can provide towards abused children, women as well as our community in need. Included in the SVSG Juniors were youths from the Samoa National Orchestra of the Ministry of Education, and the New Methodist Church of Vaitele.
Under the leadership of Deacon Faafetai Lalotoa, the St Andrew Youth welcomed the visiting SVSG youth with a traditional ava ceremony, which sets the tone of the open dialogue that followed.
First there were powerful testimonies from 2 former residences of the Campus of Hope; one of them was Feagaiga Stowers, Samoa’s weightlifter fairy tale golden girl, the other, an Ambassador of children victims of sexual abuse who has gone public with her story to save another child’s life.
The third and final testimony was from a ‘Man of Change’, a youth popularly known as ‘Mane’ amongst his SVSG family, who shared on the second chance he has been given in life, and as such, vowed to make a difference in someone else’s life, through his story. It really was a night of sharing, of networking and of empowering youths to stand up for they are the leaders of tomorrow.
To culminate the open sharing, the Sisters of Hope, comprised of the former residences of the Campus of Hope, performed a Thanksgiving Skit as part of their collective testimony, that with God, there is always hope.
For the SVSG President, Siliniu Lina Chang, who merely attended to observe and to see if the SVSG Juniors, the succession plan of SVSG’s work, are on the right track with all the preparation to take this work further, she was humbled. There was obviously a commitment from the individual youths to make a difference; there was an excitement to make a change; and there was a genuine interest to stand together as youths to lend a helping hand.
If there was anything that the members of the SVSG Juniors took back with them from this gathering, it was the sincerity of the commitment from the St. Andrew Youth, to work together as ‘youths’ to help our people in need. Now this is young people taking ownership of their responsibilities to our community in need.
Assistance for the sustainable income generation & self-employment of nofotane women in Smaoa continued with funding support from the Canadian Government under its Canada Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI) program.
Through the High Commissioner of Canada in New Zealand, a total of CAD30,000 has been granted to Samoa Victim Support Group, to continue its support for the newly self-employed nofotane women. These were the unemployed nofotane women who have been economically empowered under the 2-year project recently completed by SVSG and the UN Women Fund for Gender Equality.
Prior to the completion of the project with UN Women FGE, SVSG knew that it needs donor partners to assist with the sustainability of the project in the short term. Despite the lack of support from local donor agencies, SVSG continued to seek assistance from international donor partners.
The 6-months project with the CFLI will see nofotane earners from the UN Women FGE project, encouraged to continue with their small business ventures through self-esteem workshops, mentorship with village representatives, women to women support networks, opening savings accounts, and linkages to local and overseas markets. There will be 16 workshops conducted for the nofotane earners with inspirational speakers attending each of the sessions to further boost the nofotane women’s confidence.
And to ensure that its programs continued to be representative of the interests of the direct beneficiaries, trainers for the self esteem workshops have been recruited from the star earners themselves. These are nofotane women who have not only being trained as advocates for the economic empowerment of women in Samoa, but have also become succuessful entrepreneur since attending the Nofotane Project with UN Women FGE.
Exciting times are ahead for the nofotane earners, as SVSG continues to seek out funding to support the sustainability of their new business ventures. In the meantime, SVSG acknowledges the funding support from the Canadian Government through Nicolas Sabourin, High Commissioner of Canada in Wellington New Zealand, without which, SVSG will not be able to continue supporting the economically empowerment nofotane women.
The White Sunday this year was extra special for the abused and abandoned children at the Campus of Hope, as it was celebrated together with the children from the Seventh Day Adventist Church of Vaiusu.
Rather than going through the traditional White Sunday ritual of children performing for their parents, the children from the SDA church Vaiusu performed for the abused children under SVSG’s care at the Campus..
It was an initiative that saw children themselves joining the child protection work for the abused children. And what better day to begin this important partnership than on the children’s special day on White Sunday.
Led by Pastor Jordy & Puapuaga Salevao, close to 40 Sunday school children and teachers performed for the children; there was singing, dancing, recital of bible verses and skits.
Pastor Jordy encouraged the children that with God, there is always hope, and despite the different circumstances surrounding their being residence of the Campus, God has a plan for each and everyone of us as per Jeremiah 29:11. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
To wrap up the children’s celebration, Pastor Salevao presented a cheque of $1,500 as a gift from children of the SDA Vaiusu mission to the children of hope at the Campus.
Joining the group was the Director of the SDA Children and Women’s Ministries in Samoa, Pelenatete Siaki who liaised with SVSG in coordinating the White Sunday visit. Earlier this year in June, the SDA Children’s Ministry from Lalovaea also spent Sunday morning service with the children of hope.
SVSG President Siliniu Lina Chang acknowledged the partnership approach from the SDA Children’s Ministries towards child protection support for the abused children under SVSG’s care. “Thank you so much to the leaders of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, the Children and Women’s Ministries for coming on board to join the support network necessary for the rehabilitation of the abused and abandoned children of Samoa.”
Hundred pink seis, hand made by the children residence of the Campus of Hope were presented today to the Samoa Cancer Society. The pink sei donation is the children of hope’s contribution towards breast cancer awareness currently underway, as per the Pinktober 2018. Included also were pink ribbons to compliment the seis.
According to Mulipola Anarosa Molioo, who spoke on behalf of the SVSG Chair Georgina Lui, “this donation is from the hearts of the children of hope; it highlights their spirit of giving and their willingness to help.”
Mrs. Verona Parker was speechless as she accepted the donation on behalf of the Samoa Cancer Society.
“Thanks is a word we often use to express how we are appreciative of any donation or contribution but it’s a word worth using often because we are very thankful of these beautiful pink seis donated by children at the shelter and the thought behind the donation. Thank you very much,”
While SVSG’s work and that of the Samoa Cancer Society differs, our work share the same objective to support and to help the people of Samoa, because cancer, like violence, does not discriminate. It can happen to any of our loved ones; from our children to our fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers.
This was emphasized by Mulipola who highlighted the children’s donation being a sign of an NGO helping another NGO for the good of our people. “The Samoa Cancer Society like Samoa Victim Support are NGOs, and we all know that in order for an NGO to do its work, it needs all the support it can gather from the community.”
Mrs. Parker shared the same sentiments,commenting on how the office have been busy since the first day of October due to donations and contributions from different ministries, NGO’s, schools and the community, standing together to support those who are survivors of cancer and those who continued to fight the illness.
Last year, the SVSG Executive, staff and volunteers swapped their normal yellow uniform for pink, in support of the cancer awareness month. The support initiative will continue every Fridays for the month of October this year. SVSG believes that together, we can increase awareness on cancer, because like violence, cancer does not discriminate;
A Certificate of Appreciation was presented by Mrs. Parker of the Samoa Cancer Society to Mulipola, in appreciation of SVSG’s contribution towards Pinktober 2018.
An impromptu visit turned up at the Campus of Hope gates at Tuanaimato. The Office was not aware of any visitors on that day, and so as the Campus workers.
However, the Pastor’s wife, Selina Batiyaka, mothers from the women’s fellowship and youth members from the Assembly of God Harvest Centre at Lotopa, insisted on the visit as according to Mrs. Batiyaka, “we were given a mission by God to donate particularly to the children at the Campus of Hope.”
After the authorities at SVSG were notified and approved of the visit, the Campus was opened to the members of the AOG Lotopa who were amazed by the serene atmosphere as they walked through the gates, and were fascinated by the Campus as a whole.
But the most captivating moment was when the visitors met the children, whose faces beamed with welcoming smiles as if they knew all along that missionaries will be visiting them. The visit included sharing of testimonies from the visiting youths to encourage the children to remain strong; and was concluded in style when one of the Star Search winners for 2018, James Vito spoke to the children through singing.
Donations of food supplies were presented to assist SVSG with the daily caring for the children as part of the visitors mission. “We want you to know that you are very precious to God which is why He told us in our mission to visit you and donate towards your daily needs.” Mrs. Batiyaka
The AOG Lotopa’s visit continues the partnership SVSG establishes with various church communities throughout Samoa in support of the children of hope. It is a great reminder of God’s love which does not discriminate, but rather, encompass all of us as one.
“Thank you so much Mrs. Selina Batiyaka for continuing to support the work of SVSG. You have not only became one of the facilitators for the SVSG Advocacy Program for women, and now, you have led the women’s fellowship and the youth group of the Assembly of God Harvest Centre at Lotopa, to obey God’s mission for your congregation in this point in time. The children of hope appreciates all of you, and we as their carers, are grateful of your support.” Siliniu Lina Chang, SVSG President.
Turning darkness into the light of life was the theme the third year students of the Malua Theological College shared with the children at the Campus of Hope on Sunday.
It was a theme that guided the students missionary work with the children of hope, placing emphasis on how God has transformed the creation as per Genesis 1: 1:“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkeness was on the face of the deep ……..Then God said, ‘Let there be light’, and there was light.”
In leading up to the children’s special day as per the Annual White Sunday celebration, more than 20 third year students and their wives from the Malua Theological College spent the Sunday with the children at the Campus, as part of their ‘Faamasani’ or Practical Ministry program. It has been an ongoing program since it first started with SVSG in 2011.
And every year, the future church leaders educated at Malua have been innovative in their approaches with the children, and this year was no different. Everyone was allocated into 4 teams; the children the wives and the students. This is team building leading up to team work. Next, there were activities, presentations and talent quests, all as a team. From the children with disabilities to the toddlers to the older ones, everyone worked in a team and it was nothing short of hilarious. This is confidence building as part of community engagement.
For most of the students and their wives, this was the first time they have visited the Campus, and it showed. As mothers, the wives were holding the toddlers, others were on the floor working with the children through their paintings and drawings. Others, just observed in amazement at the transformation they saw on each child’s face, despite the darkness of the trauma each child must have endured. This is part of rehabilitation.
According to Reverend Filemoni Crawley, the Lecturer in Practical Theology who lead the visiting delegation, “We wanted to share with the children the love of God, as He wanted us to remind the children that His love will always be a shining light in our hearts.”
From morning until late afternoon, the fellowship continued. The wives hosted a delicious lunch and desert for the children followed by more singing and praising. Time is of the essence as the spirit of God moves amongst the fellowship; one of the experiences that both the children, the students and their wives will never forget.
To ensure that they have a contribution towards the children’s daily caring, donation of food and clothes were presented before a blessed day ended.
“Thank you so much Reverend Maafala Limā, Principal of the Malua Theological College for supporting the sustainability of the parternship between SVSG and the College. This is our collective responsibility towards the abused and the neglected among us. Thank you also to Rev. Filemoni Crawley for coordinating such an innovative program with the students and their wives. You have surely put on a special treat for the children for White Sunday.” Siliniu Lina Chang
The children survivors of violence and neglect under the care of Samoa Victim Support Group at the Campus of Hope, Tuanaimato, cheered the teachers on as they celebrated World Teachers Day this week.
While the request from the Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture, was to have the 26 contestants to the Teachers Day Pageant visit the Campus as part of the pageant program, the children congratulated the teachers in style.
The children danced and sang beautifully which brought the contestant to tears. Because despite the trauma and the horrific nature of the abuses they have endured, their smiles attest to God’s love through their healing.
This is the first year in which the Ministry has hosted a pageant amongst the teachers to celebrate World Teachers Day. And for all the contestants, this was the first time they have visited the Campus of Hope. A memory each of them will take back to their respective schools and shared with their students on the fact that despite the difficulties in life, there is always hope, as seen through the eye of the children of hope.
The teachers donated $200 and gift hampers for the children with an additional $310 collected from the teachers and the children’s entertainment.
“Thank you to the Chief Executive Officer of MESC, Afamasaga Dr. Karoline Afamasaga –Fuatai for including the children of hope in the Teachers Day celebration this year. Thank you also to the Assistant CEO Tauti Jenny Lauano for coordinating the visit.”
“To all the 26 contestants to the Inaugural Teachers Day Pageant 2018, you are all winners to the children of hope.” Siliniu Lina Chang, SVSG President
President of SVSG Samoa