The children and grandchildren of the Pupualii Family of Vaoala represented their parents to say ‘Thank you’ to Samoa Victim Support Group, for looking after the abused children at its Campus of Hope shelter facility. According to one of the children, “we have travelled from New Zealand, Australia, America to spend time together as a Family, and our own children have been looking forward to this visit.”
The scheduled visit to the Campus formed part of the Pupualii Family Reunion 2019. However, the measles outbreak called for a detour of the visit to the SVSG office in Apia. And despite the disappointment in not being able to spend time with the children at the Campus, the young descendants of the Pupualii Family were all smiles as they marched towards the office, each bearing grocery bags for the children of hope.
What a beautiful gesture; and how marvelous it is to be part of a growing family; sharing in the love of God.
According to Lefau Pupualii, the visit and donation for the children of hope is their Family’s way of giving back to the community. “We have seen our children growing up healthy and in a safe environment, and we are blessed. As such, we wish to give back to the community through the children of hope.” “Thank you so much to the Samoa Victim Support Group for all the work you are doing not only for our children at the Campus, but also for the whole of community.”
SVSG President Siliniu Lina Chang thanked the Pupualii Family on behalf of the Group. “It is through your kindness towards our people, and your belief in our ability to help them, that is making a difference in the work we do. We want our people to love each other as family because at SVSG, we are Family.”
The Directors and the Team at The Alofa Charitable Trust of Auckland New Zealand once again have stepped up to offer Samoa Victim Support Group that much needed assistance as the Group continues with the SVSG Measles Outreach.
One of the Directors, Afioga Levaoatuamaaana Aati-Schuster relayed the wish of the Trust to lend a helping hand towards the Measles Outreach during an email to SVSG before Christmas. “Remembering you always in prayer as you reach out to our families who have lost children to the measles. Well done for all the hard work.”
Today, SVSG received ST2,000 remitted from the The Alofa Chraritable Trust and the Team of Auckland New Zealand, to support the groundwork carried out by SVSG for the families affected by the measles, especially those who have lost children to the epidemic.
Levaoatuamaaana Aati-Schuster, a former director of the SVSG (Auckland) and members of the T.A.C.T are now serving the Samoan community in Auckland under The Alofa Charitable Trust, a registered Social Service Charitable Trust in New Zealand.
T.A.C.T continues to partner with SVSG on community projects, the latest has been the support for school fees which enabled some of the child vendors under SVSG’s Hot Soup Skill Building Program for child vendors, to attend mainstream education.
“Thank you so much Levā and the team for always reaching out to support SVSG and its program for our people here in Samoa. We wish you and your families a most prosperous new year in God’s grace.” Siliniu Lina Chang, SVSG President
“It felt like I was being crushed. My stomach contracted as if someone had taken a blow to my gut. Despite grasping for breath, I didn’t want to find air. I wanted to die with my babies.” Through the tears and in between sobs, Leeann Tomasi of Vaitele told her tale of grief; of losing her two babies Puamanuvaea (1 years old) and Bension (1 day old) to the measles.
Sitting around Leeann were her 3 surviving children, who by their looks, were also in mourning.
It was a struggle, even for the counseling team that have taken the road trip over the last 12 days with the SVSG Measles Outreach, to even maintained their composure. This is because in her state of confusion, Leeann is moving through her grief; she knew exactly what her loss was; her two babies and the fact that her family will never be complete again.
Robert and Fa’aaloalo of Nuu-Fou are amongst the 3 sets of parents visited by the Outreach whose children are not buried at their place of residence, but either at the mother’s family or the father’s family.
For Blessing the 2 year old only child, she was laid to rest at the village of Siufaga Falelatai at Robert’s family.
As such, the parents are not only grieving the loss of a child, but also, living away from the visible sign of her existence, her burial place, when they moved back to Nuu-Fou in town.
The 12th day of the SVSG Measles Outreach took us deeper into our people’s pain, reaching out to reassure the grieving mothers that God’s grace will heal and mend the broken hearted.
And in standing together as a family in mourning, we saw a glimpse of hope behind the parent’s lost smile. Their surviving children are pulling them back to reality; that life goes on.
A total of 11 families comprised of close to 100 household memebers were visited during Day 12 of the Outreach. There were 6 deaths recorded from the families reached as the usual counseling support, wellbeing assistance and general hygiene information were provided. So while the grieving parents struggled to remain strong and put on a brave face when the Outreach Team reached their homes, we told them that it is okay to cry. They have a right to grieve.
“We are therefore grateful of the continuous support from our families and friends towards the Measles Outreach. Thank you Levaoatuamaaana Aati-Schuster and The Alofa Charitable Trust of Auckland New Zealand for the donation of $2,000.00; Ms. Maude Sewell NZD100.00 and Ms. Julie Tunumafono ST100.00 both of De La Salle College New Zealand.” Siliniu Lina Chang, SVSG President
While the severe cases of the measles obviously resulted in the loss of lives, the impacts on the families and communities differ. As such, the SVSG Measles Outreach considered each family on a case by case basis.
Day 11 saw the Outreach Team covering three villages of Faleasiu, Utualii and Faleatiu. The Outreach assisted a total of 18 familes comprised of 155 people of which 71 were children. Seven of these children have lost their lives from the measles including a baby from a mother 6 months into her pregnancy.
At Faleasiu, an elderly grandmother Gina Penoa took the loss of her 11 month old grand daughter really hard, resulting in her minor stroke. According to Gina, “It is one thing to suddenly lose a child, but to have her taken to her mother’s family for burial is too much for me to bear; there is not even a grave of her so it was like she was never here with us.” Toeaso Penoa, who is the father of Baby Margaret is Gina’s son, but the couple decided to take their daughter to be buried at Tamalii’s family at Afega. Tamalii is Baby Margaret’s mother. The extended family of Gina is providing that much needed support for her, not only as she grieved the loss of Baby Margaret, but also as she now needs a carer due to her health condition.
23 year old Suvania Lauesi of Faleatiu suffered the double impact of the measles; She was infected while 6 months into her pregnancy, and while she was fortunately enough to recover, she however had to undertake a caeseran delivery of her still born child who could not survive the measles.
Suvania is trying to remain stronger for her three surviving children Lauesi, Aukuso, and BJ, who are still weak from being infected with the measles. The look on the grieving mother and children’s faces tell the story of loss and fatigue from the whole situation.
For most of these families, they only have the memories of their children, taken too soon, to hold on to.
The dreams of what they might have become if they have lived to survive the wrath of this deadly virus, is nothing but a dream now.
And as we celebrate Christmas, the birth of Christ who symbolizes love, light, hope and peace, let us remain joyful and faithful for He will always sees us through.
“I wish all of SVSG Village Representatives and their families a joyous festive season. Thank you for being our proud ambassadors in village communities throughout this year, especially during the Measles Outreach.” Siliniu Lina Chang, SVSG President
“Thank you to our family of supporters that continued to come forward to assist us in reaching our people in this time of need. Thank you Aumua Ming & Tofilau Fiti Leung Wai of SSAB for the monetary donation of $300 and in kind valued at $200.00; Jim and Mindy Wiese Missionaries of Samoa for joining the door to door Outreach, sharing balloons and jandals that have brightened up the faces of the little ones during this festive season.” Siliniu Lina Chang
Wishing our families and friends, donor partners and development agencies a merry Christmas and a most prosperous new year.
The Superintendent and the First Lady of the General Council of the Samoan Assemblies of God in New Zealand, Reverend Tafunai Tooseu & Vaepa Muaiava brought with them jolly good tidings from the members of the Samoan AOG in New Zealand, when they visited the office of the Samoa Victim Support Group in Apia.
Bearing monetary gift of NZD5,000.00 to assist with SVSG’s work for the children survivors of abuse cared for at the Campus of Hope shelter facility, Reverend Tafunai and Vaepa of the SOG Mt. Roskill, represented the General Council of the Samoan Assemblies of God in New Zealand and its members, in brightening up our spirits as we continued to struggle to remain positive amidst the measles and its effect on our precious children.
Nevertheless, God will always be the God of our lives despite the stormy weather. And this is the reason for this season, because as we prepared ourselves for the birth of Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we rejoice always in His love for us all.
It is in this connection that we acknowledge the love of the Assemblies of God in New Zealand in keeping the spirit of Christmas alive. Thank you for the freely given act of kindness; as the donation to the children survivors of violence is a clear sign that we have the true Christmas spirit at hearts.
Thank you also to the Reverends and their Faletua, who have visited the Campus in previous years, and continued to advocate for support for the children of hope.
“Last but not the least, thank you Reverend Tafunai Tooseu Muaiava and Vaepa for the beautiful time shared with us, even if it was only for a while. We are comforted to know that you are keeping the children of hope always in prayer.”
“As the President of Samoa Victim Support Group, I wish all our families and friends a safe and enjoyable festive season.” Siliniu Lina Chang.
Some of the victims mothers of the measles have been reaching out to SVSG for help, via the 24 hour free Help Line during this crisis situation. Most of them just wanted someone to talk to; and the calls usually came in late at nights or early mornings. These are mothers dealing not only with trauma and grief, but mostly with uncertainty as to what to do next?. And we have been responding to these calls accordingly.
One of the callers was the 28 year old Natasha Ierome Uia of Lotopa, who lost both her husband USA Ielome and her 5 year old daughter Oliana to the measles. According to Natasha, “I feel numb, lost and empty.” And the weight of these words leaves a void in the heart.
At Vaimoso, the Measles Outreach Team found Moana decorating her 1 year old daughter’s grave with Christmas glitters. “This is my way of getting into the spirit of Christmas despite this aching pain of losing Siia’e.”
The parents Oli and Moana requested counseling support for their family as they tried to come to terms with the loss of their youngest child.
When the Outreach Team attended to a call from a grandmother at Malie, she confirmed to the Team that all 6 members of her family have not been vaccinated; 4 are children who have been infected with the measles and recovered. Her son age 46 died from the measles at home following regular visits to the hospital. This is another case of an unregistered dead from the measles discovered by the Outreach Team so far.
During the 10th day of the Measles Outreach, SVSG visited 11 families at Vaimoso, Lotopa, Malie and Afega. A total of 7 deaths were recorded by our Team from these families, inclusive of 2 unregistered children who passed away at home from the measles and were immediately buried.
Since Day 1 of the Measles Outreach to this 10th day, a total of 649 people have benefited from the SVSG Measles Outreach; recording 35 deaths from the 91 families. Out of the 35 deaths recorded, 5 have not been registered at the hospital as they passed away at home and were buried immediate by their families.
Thank you to the SVSG village representatives of Vaimoso - Manuleleua Lauese; Malie – Fa’amausili Siona; Afega – Maulolo Fa’afua Alefaio for making our work easier in reaching the affected families from the measles.
Lastly, this work of love would not be possible without the kind support and the encouragement from our families and friends.
Today, we acknowledge donation of $500.00 from Niu Pharmacy, NZD1,000 (ST1,683.50) from McCaw Lewis Lawyers of Hamilton New Zealand, Bathurst FT Service of Brisbane $872.90 and NZD1,500 from Milla & Isla Sopoaga all the way from the United Kingdom.
To our families and friends who donated via the Givealittle page, thank we say Faafetai lava – Thank you.
What we have learnt while being on the road on this 9th Day of the SVSG Measles Outreach is that yes, our people are grieving the loss of our precious children.
But the simplest gestures such as a hug, a pat on the back, a smile, a symbol of hope; are the reassurance that our people needed the most at this time.
A reassurance that as a, community, we do care. That we cry because we felt their pain; that we smile because we have to remain stronger. That we can see behind their brave faces and how much they are holding on, for the sake of their surviving children.
And that is where SVSG comes in as Family; to support, to help and to care for our people during these difficult times.
During this 9th Day of the Outreach, SVSG counseled 3 grieving mothers: 21 year old Petina Alesana of Letogo who lost her 9 months old daughter Sierra Alesana to the measles. She held on tightly to her 2 year old son Benjamin Alesana while talking to us; Next we had the 8 months pregnant Veronika Hala of Laulii. A very young couple, Veronika and her husband Pula are grieving the loss of their only child Joseph Hala to the measles;
Lastly, we visited Tilomai and her husband Saolotoga Ah Siu of Vaitoloa and spent some time with their 6 remaining children. The measles claimed the life of their baby daughter Hazel Ah Siu at 1 year old.
All of these parents called the SVSG Help Line for counseling support during this time of loss, and we gladly assisted them. And it was good timing that a donation of 30 assorted Gift Bags were donated by Ariana Paul of Tri Maori Charitable of New Zealand specifically for the grieving mothers of the measles epidemic. Included in the gift bags was a small red box containing a gold chain with a pendant of a butterfly inside a heart. According to Ms. Ariana, “tell the grieving mothers that since the butterfly had flown away, their hearts remain with them.” Thank you Ariana for the kind donation and the inspirational story behind it.
Thank you also to the donations received to date from Zachery & Margie Snyder of Utah USD100.00; Brian & Nelda Atkins of the Pacific Aluminium ST1,000.00; Sunrise Restaurant ST300.00, McCaw Lewis Lawyers of Hamilton New Zealand NZD1,000 and the staff of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) of Christchurch New Zealand NZD150.00. Through your generosity, we have been able to reassure our grieving families that we are here to support, to help and to care for them as Family.
As the SVSG Measles Outreach continues with its door to door assistance for families and parents who have lost children to the measles, and those with infected children, the youth sub-group of SVSG, the SVSG (Junior) had taken up the leadership role as the Response Team for the Outreach.
Led by the SVSG Junior Executive and its youth members, the Response Team basically takes up the monitoring and evaluation role; re-visiting families covered by the Outreach and were assessed to have an identified need for education and awareness on maintaining general hygiene and healthy living.
Together with the assistance of the SVSG village representatives, our youths basically worked with our families to dispose of plastics around their homes, getting rid of materials that became breeding grounds for the mosquitoes, and even talking with the children on the importance of washing hands. It’s the daily things that we overlook, yet, its vital to avoid the spread of the measles and other diseases. This is our solution to the problem at hand without being judgemental about the affected families and their situations.
And the youths enjoyed being there to support our most affected families, even it is to clean up around their homes.
For Tapuni Ioane Matautia of Faleula, who lost her 11 month old child to the measles, she was just overwhelmed by the sincerity of the youth’s willingness to help.
“Seeing them happily went about their work around my home feels like they are part of the my family. I am just so greatful of these young people and their compassion to help others.”
The Response Team is all part of the youths taking up a leadership role not only in responding to the measles outbreak, but most importantly, in building climate resilience measures within our families.
SVSG acknowledges its youth members from the St. Andrews Youth of the Catholic Church Faleula, the Assembly of God Youth of Satapuala, the Laulii youth, and the Salvation for Freedom Youth of Toamua. “Thank you for being the enthusiastic and responsible youths during this difficult time.” SVSG President Siliniu Lina Chang
As the SVSG Measles Outreach team travelled about 35 minutes out of town towards the western coast of Upolu, there was the usual silence in the vehicles as we neared Fasitoo-uta, the designation for Day 8 of the Community Outreach.
This is because of the anticipated mood within the households affected by the measles as we have experienced while on the road over the last 2 weeks. But the Team’s first stop was a bright yellow house that greeted us with a ‘God is Good’ writing on wall. And this reminder was enough to get us through the 118 residence of the 20 families at Fasitoo-uta reached by the Program.
With the assistance of the SVSG village represetatives at Fasitoo-uta namely Leaupepe Feausi and Akenese Matavao, we were able to visit 2 families who have lost loved ones plus 18 others whose children have been infected by the measles and have all been recovered.
The highlight of the Outreach at Fasitoo-uta were the smiles we were greeted with by the families. These are the parents and children with fresh wounds from the loss of loved ones. These are the most vulnerable; especially the children and the underprivilege, yet, through their smiles, it was their way of getting through all this.
And this is the resilience of our people with unwavering faith; that despite the measles epidemic and the darkness that it brought to our journey as a country, God is Good.
Thank you so much to the residence of Fasitoo-uta for helping us help others better. Because while our focus is to lend a helping hand to our families and our communities most affected, we have been struggling to remain stronger. This is due to the early morning start to the village communities and the late nights at the office to update reports and prepare for the next visits.
The SVSG’s counseling team observed that the resilience of the affected residence of Fasitoo-uta is helping to heal the psychological wounds and rebuilt as a community affected by the measles. They are becoming active survivors rather than passive victims.
And this positive attitude is encouraging the SVSG volunteers who are part of the Measles Outreach team. While gathering data on affected families, completing needs assessment, and distributing the donated supplies, our young volunteers were seen smiling their way through it all.
Thank you to the donations received to date from the Management & Staff of the Samoa Life Assurance Corporation $200; Mr. & Mrs. Ken Newton of the CCK Trading Limited $500; Wilson Mckay (Barrister & Solicitor) of New Zealand $5,022.25; and Mr. Suresh Mahboobani of Thailand USD100, as it enabled us to buy basic food and toiletry supplies including diapers and milk for the affected children and their families.
“Be encouraged Samoa, because together, we can smile at the storm.” Siliniu Lina Chang, SVSG President
Despite losing her 6 months old granddaughter after being infected with the measles from 2 children she massaged as a traditional healer, Ta’afi Faleupolu of Toamua does not regret helping the children who survived the measles.
This is from a mother who is currently looking after her family of two daughters on her own as her husband is currently working in Kiribati. According to Ta’afi, “I knew that I’ll be exposing my family to the measles from still accepting children for their normal traditional massage, but that is my job as a traditional healer, I have to help the children.” Baby Taualofa was 6 months old when she passed away at home after losing her battle with the measles.
Down the road from Ta’afi’s house, we found an elderly grandfather on his wheelchair. There does not seem to be any problem at all as his 8 children are all grown between the ages of 15 – 36 years old.
But behind the grandfather’s brave face, he was mourning the loss of two of his grandchildren born off his eldest daughter and fourth son. According to the grandfather, his fourth son was infected by the virus from his workplace and that was how his grandchildren got the measles. And instead of being bitter towards the whole situation, the grandfather remained calm, and was grateful that his children were able to being part of the support system called by the government when the state of emergency was declared for Samoa. Talking about patriotic spirit amidst the personal loss to his family, this grandfather was thinking beyond his own family, towards the safety of the many children being affected.
These are altruistic grandparents whose unselfish acts of kindness supersede their own emotional wellness. And these heroic stories from the measles epidemic is worthy of being told, as it highlights humanity amidst the adversities.
But we wish we could say the same for Iulai and So’o Taele whose 7th child and the youngest at 10 months old died at home from the measles on 29th November. However, when the SVSG Outreach visited this family, the parents pointed us to a spot infront of their house, covered by a blue tarpaulin, as their dead child is still at the morgue awaiting coronial inquest.
The family seem so lost, with any sense of hope found in their unwavering faith that God will get them through this whole ordeal. They just wanted to have their baby laid to rest.
And as the Outreach continues, grieving parents and affected families have used the Help Line to alert SVSG of the need for assistance. At the same time, supporters are calling in to lend a helping hand. Thank you to Bluebird Lumber and Hardward for the donation of $800, Tuala & Sarona Ponifasio of the Travellers Point $1,000 and Digicel Samoa for the donation valued at $10,000 ($5,000 shopping vouchers at Ah Liki Wholesale and $5,000 credit to assist the affected families).
Lastly, thank you to the SVSG Village Representatives of Toamua, Ale Komiti & faletua and Vaine for walking together with us to reach our families in need at Toamua.