The fight to end violence against children in Samoa had taken a leap of faith, as a group of adolescents continued to gather as a peer support group to develop themselves as Child Protection Champions/Ambassadors.
The peer support group is made up of 40 adolescents from the 7 communities of Samalaeulu in Savaii, Fasitoo-uta, Toamua, Siumu, Fagalii, Luatuanuu and Solosolo in Upolu; in which Samoa Victim Support Group is piloting its primary prevention program to end violence against children.
Despite their different personalities, level of education or the lack thereof, and family dynamics, the peer support group provides the adolescents with a safe space and learning environment without fear of judgment, misunderstanding, harassment or abuse. Most importantly, the peer support group had created a sense of belonging amongst the participants.
From school drop outs to attempted suicide ones; adolescents with disabilities to those with gender preference; troubled teens, the vocal, the quiet and the survivors of violence. Members of the peer support group are our very own children destined to become the next generation of Child Protection Champions and/or Ambassadors. At today’s gathering, SVSG staff witnessed how members of the peer group have built supportive relationships with each other. Sharing on their personal journeys was done so without fear of being discriminated or ridiculed.
An 18 year old shared on how he struggled to front up a brave face when he dropped out of school, while buried within was a feeling of shame and sadness. He also never looked beyond his feelings and considered how his drop-out had affected his parents. What he had learnt from the ongoing trainings by SVSG to develop life skills of the adolescents, is the importance of identifying and managing your own emotions, while being in tune to the emotions of others closest to you. The young man is now ready to return to complete his education and his parents are supporting him all the way. This change in attitude and behavior by this adolescent highlighted the effectiveness of peer groups in supporting young people with their wellbeing, improved self-esteem and confidence. It is SVSG’s way of building a generation of Youth Ambassadors to end violence in Samoa.
Georgina Lui, the Chair of the SVSG Board acknowledged the important partnership SVSG had established with the UNICEF Pacific over the years, in providing sustainability of community prevention programs to end violence against children in Samoa.