Samoa Victim Support Group will host the Initial Meeting for some of the networks of the MenEngage Global Alliance from 21 – 25 January 2019 at the Travellers Point Hotel, Apia.
The Meeting is coordinated by the Centro Rural Joven Vida (CERUJOVI), a non-profit organization based in Spain. It will be attended by representatives from five partner organisations for the Men & Boys Engage Project, such as the Emancipator in Nethelands, the Youth First in Madagascar, the Foundation for Innovative Social Development in Sri Lanka, the Centre for Health and Social Justice in India and Samoa Victim Support Group, Samoa.
CERUJOVI is a center of rural development, which works on comprehensive programs for the development of rural communities. It also works in all the sectors of the population, especially those who are more disadvantaged, such as the youth, children, women and elderly.
SVSG’s involvement with the Men & Boys Engage Project is through its youth sub-group, the SVSG (Juniors), whose participants will join the MenEngage Global Alliance in being empowered through capacity building and fostering network with other partners to the Project.
By building on the capacity of its youth and fostering youth relationship with international partner organsiations, this is all part of SVSG’s succession plans as the Group look towards its youth sub-group, the SVSG (Junior) to take on the future direction of SVSG.
Following the Project’s Initial Meeting in Samoa, there will be a Seminar in New Delhi India in March 2019 and a Study Tour in Amsterdam Netherlands in May.
SVSG is looking forward to welcome the participants of the Initial Meeting for the Men & Boys Engage Project to Samoa.
In September this year the findings of a public inquiry into family violence in Samoa were officially released, and uncovered extremely high levels of violence against women and girls.
Data from the inquiry indicated that 9.5 per cent of the female respondents reported being raped by a family member in their lifetime.
The story of 18-year-old Leilua Lino is of a girl turning tragedy into a cause to empower survivors of sexual violence — having been raped by her own biological father at the age of nine, and being bold to testify against him in Court and later raise awareness in primary schools on child abuse — for the benefit of children across Samoa.
Her testimony in Court — despite her mother’s plea that he was a “good man” — proved crucial in ensuring her father was sentenced to 29 years imprisonment.
Last month Leilua received international recognition for her work at the Samoa Victim Support Group, when she was announced as one of three finalists for the International Children’s Peace Prize 2018, as her primary-school and community-focused awareness has reached over 3000 children and compelled over 100 children to report abuse, according to the Amsterdam-based not-for-profit organisation KidsRights Foundation.
The courage that she is showing and the lives that she is impacting in community schools in Samoa and in the communities makes her a nominee for the Samoa Observer People of the Year 2018.
Speaking to the Samoa Observer recently, Leilua said she came from a poor family and her mother sold cucumbers to raise her and her seven brothers’ school fees.
Her life changed when her father started drinking and would beat her up in rage.
“When I was young, my relationship with my parents was very good, I used to love going to school. My school experience had its ups and downs.
“But everything changed when my father started drinking, it changed his ways. My father was a good man, he always goes to church, but when alcohol was introduced in his life he stopped going to church.
“At the age of nine, my whole life turned upside down. It never crossed my mind that my own biological father could do something like this and that was when he raped me at a young age,” she said.
Her mother did not believe her when she told her of the incident, according to Leilua.
“As I cried myself to sleep every night, the thought of my own mother not helping me tore me apart from within. My mother would always tell me, after it happened, that my father was a good man. But I pleaded with my mother that I needed her help. My cry for help was not heard and I used to wonder if there was a reason for my existence, because no one loved me, even my own blood.”
Leilua’s abusive father eventually stopped her from attending school, and ordered that she stayed home and did the house chores. On Sundays, she found solace in the church’s Sunday school class, and one day opened up on her abuse by her father with best friend Rosalina.
“She (Rosalina) advised me to seek help because I was young and my situation was not something that could happen to me at that age. She told our pastor if he could spare his time to talk to me.
“I then shared with our pastor Lio and he asked me three times if I am really in need of help and I said yes, please help me. Our pastor contacted Samoa Victim Support Group (SVSG) who sent a representative to speak to me about what happened,” she added.
Leilua moved to the SVSG — who then helped her to file a police statement that incriminated her father — and opened a new chapter in her life, by becoming an “ambassador for peace” and reaching out to children exposed to abuse through her Peace Garden and raising awareness.
“I created peace gardens in our campus which have helped 200 children to recover from trauma. I was set on becoming an ambassador of peace, to change lives of those that suffered the same fate as mine to convince them in life they are not alone; there is always someone out there that can give a helping hand.
“In life, I want to be a light that is shone upon those that have no voice; I want to dedicate my life in serving God’s purpose and not of my own desires. In the end I had the chance to forgive my own father of what he did to me not for him but for my own peace.
“In the bible it says that if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins your Father will not forgive your sins,” she added.
Samoa Observer By Adel Fruean , 30 December 2018
Weightlifter Feagaiaga Stowers was just 17 years old when she won gold at the Commonwealth Games held on Australia’s Gold Coast in April.
It was a crowning moment for perhaps Samoa’s brightest young athlete.
And Stowers’ star shines even brighter given the darkness that surrounded her upbringing. A survivor of abuse, there was a time when Stowers used to think her life didn’t mean anything.
“Not being able to be with family is the saddest thing,” she told the Samoa Observer in 2016.
“I used to be afraid of the outside world and I thought that everyone was just as evil as the people who hurt me.”
She was taken in by the S.V.S.G Campus of Hope in 2013 and the only person she felt she could trust was ‘Mama Lina’, the SVGS president Siliniu Lina Chang.
“Feagaiaga has come a long way from a shy and hopeless survivor to a champion that she is today,” Siliniu said in a statement after the Commonwealth Games.
She said Stowers was one of the girl survivors of violence that took up weightlifting as part of their rehabilitation programme in 2015 through a partnership with the Samoa Weightlifting Federation.
“Through weightlifting, she found a way to release her anger and her sense of hopelessness.”
S.W.F president and head coach Tuaopepe Jerry Wallwork told the Samoa Observer after the Commonwealth Games that he saw potential in Stowers the first time he had met her.
“Feagaiga is a special young lady. I think when I say special, she’s had a bit of tough upbringing.”
He said he is happy that weightlifting has saved her and given her the right path to follow.
“We just needed to instil the discipline, the drive, the direction to guide her.”
He said she’s a quiet young lady, and rarely says a word even to her coach who she works with daily.
“Even when she’s injured, she still doesn’t say a word, so I have to find out from some of the senior girls that she’s injured.”
In an interview with Samoa Observer in 2016, Stowers said that Tuaopepe gave her hope by introducing her to weightlifting, the sport which gave her a second chance at life.
“Once I got to train with Tuaopepe and I saw how amazing it is to be noticed and appreciated by people, that really cheered me up.
“So coming in here has made me realise that what happened in past is the past but it is up to us to choose which pathway to take, it is up to us whether we dwell on the past or start a new beginning for our own self.
“He didn’t look at my background; he didn’t look at my past but he focused on how I can become somebody in the future.”
Tuaopepe said she has the same natural talent as Ele Opeloge, and is every chance to emulate the Olympic silver medallist lifter.
“So for her to reach this level at this young age, and she’s only been lifting for three years, or little bit less than three years, is fantastic.”
Stowers told the Samoa Observer after winning gold at the Commonwealth Games she never thought it could happen.
“What I have learnt from this competition is to not run away from challenges; God will always make things possible.”
She said the medal wasn’t just for her, but also her family, friends, country and teammates.
Stowers will always be grateful to Siliniu for pushing her to do something that matters in life.
The S.V.S.G president said Stowers’ success was humbling, not just for the gold medal, but because of her successful reintegration into society.
“With confidence and determination, the once shy teenage girl is now a Champion in her own right; a survivor living life to the fullest outside of the Campus of Hope.”
That former shy teenage girl is training every day for upcoming International Weightlifting Federation World Cup in China next February, before the Pacific Games is held in Samoa in July.
Her long term goal is the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, where she’ll hope to match or better Ele Opeloge’s silver medal at Beijing 2008.
Given all that she’s come through in her first 18 years of life, you would have to back this member of the Samoa Observer’s People of the Year 2018 to keep on shining.
Samoa Observer By Thomas Airey , 30 December 2018
As young volunteers for Samoa Victim Support Group under the SVSG (Juniors) sub-group, we have watched, observed and marveled at the magnitude of the work being carried out by SVSG for our community in need, let alone, the operation of the only shelter facility in Samoa for abused and vulnerable children, the Campus of Hope.
We asked ourselves, “How can we as the youth, better support the mother organization as part of SVSG’s succession plan?”
The answer lies not in us taking up casework assistance, child protection, court support or shelter operations as per SVSG’s mandate, but rather, in how we can give back to the community that has supported and entrusted SVSG to be a service provider.
The idea was reaffirmed after seeing the children at the Campus, struggled with their daily routine on one particular day when they were without water. It brought home the reality of the same struggle faced by many of our families who do not have access to clean water.
SVSG’s Welfare Database attested to many of our families in need of welfare assistance. And therein lies the focus of SVSG (Juniors) fundraising drives over the last 3 months, through the Zumba and the Hope Concert – to give back to the community through a drive for clean water. Our target was to supply 10 x 10,000 litre water tanks to 10 families under the SVSG database, in need of clean water.
Today, we acknowledge with gratitude the support from our donors, both here and abroad, who have made this Clean Water project a reality. A special thank you to Fred Yazadani, General Manager of the Rotomould Water Tank at Fugalei for partnering with us for this project.
From the Zumba fundraising, we were able to secure 1 x 10,000 litre water tank. The Hope Concert late November and the donations from our supporting partners enabled us to reach our target of 10 x 10,000 litre water tanks. Chan Mow and family donated for 1 tank; May Schwenke of Melbourne Australia donated another while Maurice and Elanit Mitry of Sydney Australia donated 3 tanks. Fittings and cement for the tanks have all been provided through this project.
Three families at Malaemalu Falealili and one from Faleula have had their water tanks installed, with delivery to others still progressing. The SVSG (Junior) youth groups from these villages have helped with the cement work for the tanks.
“Thank you so much to the mother organization, the Samoa Victim Support Group for guiding us in serving our community in need. As Christmas is upon us, let us keep the spirit of giving alive through services to others. It is the least we could do for unto us, a child is born, the greatest gift of all.” SVSG Junior
Wishing our families, friends and supporters a Merry Christmas and a most Prosperous New Year in God’s grace.
As human rights defenders the world over are on the frontlines of defending the Universal Declaration of Human Rights through their work, Samoa Victim Support Group celebrated the 70th anniversary of this extraordinary document with child vendors, making ends meet on the streets of Apia.
In partnership with the National Human Rights Institute of Samoa (NHRI), SVSG celebrated with child vendors in an activity titled: ‘Buddying up in the Child Vendor’s World of Work’, focusing on human rights and dignity.
The activity aimed at working on the child vendors self-esteem, that they can rise up from the challenges of the streets, to a much better environment such as the classroom, and for SVSG’s case, the Hot Soup Skill Building Training. Each child vendor buddyed up with a youth member of the SVSG (Junior) for the whole day at the youth’s workplaces.
The rain did not dampen the spirit of the child vendors on this 10th day of December, as they dressed up in their best clothes, ready to experience life in the formal employment sector, away from their work places on the streets. At the SVSG Office, the children put on their yellow t-shirts with ‘Human Rights’ boldly printed in the front as the team from the NHRI joined SVSG in greeting them. The eagerness on their faces, the excitement in their voices and the many questions they asked say it all. These are children, derived of their right to enjoy being children and to be educated as they worked on the street as vendors.
The first stop for the buddies was at the Ombudsman’s Office, where Tracey Mikaele and the team explained to the children in simple terms, what human right is. They toured the office and met the staff of the NHRI.
“When I reached rock bottom, that was when I started looking within myself for answers to being poor, and I found it – It is all in my hands.”
This was the testimony shared by Pina Soma, a nofotane woman of Satapuala who attended SVSG’s Nofotane Program of previous years, learnt a skill or two and is now one of the newly self employed nofotane women. Mrs. Soma was a participant to the 4th session of Self-Esteem Workshops currently being carried out by Samoa Victim Support Group as part of the Canada Fund for Local Initiative project.
According to Mrs. Soma, before joining the Nofotane program she felt hopeless. With no one in the family who works, her family survived on a day by day basis with the support from others. What triggered the change in Mrs. Soma was her mentality towards life. “Here I was looking towards others for help when God gave each and everyone of us a talent, and it is just a matter of using it to survive and to glorify God.” Pina Soma
Mrs. Soma was trained on floral arrangement during the previous Nofotane project. Today, she is earning a living for her family from selling Samoan oil, Samoan cocoa, feathered costumes, pork buns and donuts. And she has come a long way from being poor, to being a confident woman, able to provide for herself and her family.
The positive changes in the nofotane women were achieved through overcoming the challenges within themselves. Gone were the hopeless and helpless attitudes, and instead we saw women with ‘a can do mentality.’ The nofotane women have been challenged to SHINE.
75% of the participants to the 4th session have already opened Savings Account with the local financial institutions. This is an achievement for the financial literacy component of the workshops as the newly self-employed women have learnt the basics in starting a business, and have progessed on to put aside saving for rainy days. This is progress towards sustainable income generation and self employment of nofotane women as per the CFLI Project.
“A nofotane woman will always be a nofotane; the project is not attempting to change this aspect of our culture, but merely aims to ensure sustainability of being empowered because a strong, proud and successful community, does not tolerate any form of violence against women.” Siliniu Lina Chang, SVSG President
The 3rd session of Self-Esteem Workshops for nofotane women as part of the Canada Fund for Local Initiative project highlighted the commitment from the women to learn.
Close to 30 nofotane earners from Utualii, Tufulele and Faleasiu gathered at the residence of the SVSG village reperesentative for Faleasiu, to share on their experiences in being newly self-employed women, to learn on how to maintain momentum of their new business ventures through marketing strategies and product development, to encourage working in support networks, and to SHINE through the self-esteem workshop.
It has been a rewarding experience, seeing the nofotane women that were once shy, that hardly participated during the first nofotane project, that seldom volunteered to share on their experience as women survivors of violence; being vibrant with confidence, the confidence of an empowered woman.
The highlight of the session at Faleasiu was the commitment from the elderly nofotane women to learn. It was a good example they set for the young women, that you are never be too old to learn.
In fact, one of the star earners awarded during the recent nofotane project was the Taueva Family of Faleasiu. The elderly couple Taueva and Apiseka Tuloto, in the age group 71-80 years old, recalled living a life of poverty, with nothing to rely on except for the plantation. Their son’s wife Falelua Taueva also attended the same nofotane livelihood training as her in laws in May 2018.
When SVSG visited the Taueva Family of Faleasiu, the change from being empowered was inevitable. Falelua walked towards SVSG’s vehicle with a confident smile as she excitedly showed the staff her coffee mix hand bags, and smiled further when she showed the family cooking pot used to make pork buns. In addition to these products, she also sells Samoan cocoa. The Taueva family now earns between $300 - $400 on good days.
The most popular response from the nofotane women who attended the 3rd Self-Esteem Workshop session was for SVSG to continue with these programs, as it encourages them, it challenges them and it boosts their confidence as newly self-employed nofotane women. And SVSG will ensure that the women are well supported through the mentors in their villages – the SVSG village representatives.
Because according to the Siliniu Lina Chang, SVSG President, “a nofotane woman will always be a nofotane; the project is not attempting to change this aspect of our culture, but merely aims to ensure sustainability of being empowered because a strong, proud and successful community, does not tolerate any form of violence against women.”
Finding inner peace through prayer is central to the rehabilitation programs at the Campus of Hope. Today, the children of hope did exactly that, as they gathered in prayer to celebrate the International Children’s Day for 2018.
Holding hands around the ‘Peace Garden’ created Miss Leilua Lino, a survivor of incest rape who is now recognized as one of the three finalists for the International Children’s Peace Prize 2018, it was simply heaven on earth. As the sun rises, the birds chirped and the breeze soothes the skin, the babies, the toddlers, the special needs, the young and the old, rejoiced to the God Almighty in singing and in prayer. The SVSG President, the staff, the SVSG Juniors, the matrons who looked after the children, the security guards, and the groundsmen joined in the prayer celebration.
Who wouldn’t rejoice when according to Matthew 19: 14, Jesus said, “let the little children come to me and do not hinder them for the kingdom of heaven belong to such as these.”
And this was the message from the children of hope today, that despite all the hardships of this world, Jesus remains their true friend. In prayer, this is the Children of Hope’s way of voicing their support for millions of their peers worldwide who are unprotected, uprooted and unschooled. It is a solidarity movement by the children residence of the Campus of Hope.
President Siliniu Lina Chang appealed to the children to always remember to pray not only for themselves, but also for all the abused and troubled children who are out there in our community, and the world over.
“May God continue to bless all our children, the donors and supporters, as well as the workers who have been hand pi cked to carry His work throughout the land. To God be the glory always,” said Siliniu Lina Chang.
As one of the 3 finalists for the International Children’s Peace Prize 2018, Leilua Lino’s story of hope has made her part of the change maker movement coordinated by the Kids Right Foundation of Amsterdam. “It is certainly a reflection of the resilience and strength shown by our children, says one of SVSG Board member.”
Samoa Victim Support Group nominated Leilua, as the Group saw how she had created a Peace Garden as a way of coping with her anger towards those who have hurt her. With the announcement of the 3 finalists by the Kids Rights Foundation earlier this week , SVSG is once again humbled by the recognition of the children of hope’s bravery, as represented by Leilua.
It speaks of the support network behind the abused children’s journey to recovery both here and abroad. Amongst such supporters is Justice Vui Clarence Nelson, whose belief, translated into fatherly advises to the Group and visitations to the children at the Campus of Hope, continues to bear positive fruits.
As a representative of the Pacific region to the Committee on the Rights of the Child (C.R.), Justice Vui has always been vocal and expressed concerns at the high levels of abuse, domestic violence and incest due to fear of stigma in Samoa. When Justice Vui heard of Leilua’s progress in the world of children advocacy, he sent his congratulations. “This is excellent news, viia le Atua.” He even took time out from court to congratulate her in person.
The SVSG Patron, Chair & the Board, Executive Committee and the growing SVSG family therefore joins the Kids Right Foundation in congratulating Leilua for making it this far.
We look forward to the announcement of the winner for the International Children’s Peace Prize 2018, on the 20th November, knowing that our local girl is already a winner in her recovery journey.
According to a dear friend of the children at the Campus, “I would like to remind Leilua that to win, we do not need to come first. The goal is just dream, and never ever let that dream go or let anybody tell you that you cant achieve that dream.”
Leilua’s message to the abused children in is Samoa that “if I can do it, you can too.”
Consultations to review the Community Sector Plan 2016 – 2021 of the Ministry of Women, Community and Social Development included the recognition of two non governmental organisations and two communities in the Community Development Sector Award Presentation.
Samoa Victim Support Group received the Special Award for Community Social Protection, in recognition of outstanding performance and commitment through inclusive Community Social Protection Programs targeting vulnerable populations.
The award came as the Group near its 14th years of service to the people of Samoa, and we are grateful.
According to the SVSG President Siliniu Lina Chang, “we are very grateful to the Ministry for appreciating our work. Glory be to God for trusting us to take His work further.”
As servants, SVSG’s governing body, the executive committee, staff, volunteers, the SVSG village representatives and the SVSG Juniors, have been working hard to serve our community in need. It is for this reason why SVSG is humbled by the award, as it recognizes SVSG’s community protection role, which to us, is all about God’s work.
Thank you so much Afamasaga Faauiga Mulitalo, Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry for engaging the community sector stakeholders in this review. As a sector partner, the review highlights an inclusive approach for an inclusive community development.
As a non-governmental organization, the award highlights a continuous transformation in SVSG and its work due to the indentified need to support our communities, as much as the changes in the communities as we’ve come to know them inclusively, as families as per SVSG’s motto that:
We support, we help, we care, WE ARE YOUR FAMILY!
SVSG will continue to do what its passionate about; helping and serving the most vulnerable in our community, while fostering a collaborative working relationship with the Ministry.
President of SVSG Samoa