A group of students, parents and teachers from the Sacred Heart College, a Catholic Marist College from Auckland New Zealand, visited the children at the Campus of Hope while in the country.
Bearing in kind and monetary donations of $1,000.00, the visit was inspiring for both the visitors and the children, given it was the school’s first ever visit to the Campus.
For the children of hope, the inspiration came from the Auckland based Samoan-students trying their best to put up the perfect performance of Samoan entertainment to cheer the children up.
It was a good laugh, with a valuable lesson for everyone about the importance of ones own roots, culture and identity.
According to Ana Leilua, one of the parents that accompanied the student’s visit, “It was a humbling and blessed experience not only for our boys but for us as parents to see the wonderful work you do for our children.”
So blessed that before the visiting school departed for New Zealand, another donation load of food, fruits and water supplies, First Aid Kits and $1,000.00 was presented again at the SVSG main office in Apia, to further assist SVSG with the children’s daily needs. One of the school teachers, Mr. Francis Stowers who presented the additional donation to the SVSG Office vowed that the Sacred Heart College will be back.
“Thank you so much to all the teachers and parents for coordinating the first ever visit by the College to the Campus of Hope. It has proven to be an inspirational experience for everyone involved. Last but not the least, I acknowledge with gratitude Mrs. Telesia Tanoai, a long serving member of the SVSG (Auckland) who liaise with SVSG on the visit from the start.” Siliniu Lina Chang, SVSG President
The President of the Samoa Victim Support Group (SVSG), Siliniu Lina Chang is attending the 16th Hawai`i International Summit on Preventing, Assessing & Treating Trauma Across the Lifespan, from 23 – 26 April 2019.
Accompanying the President is one of the Girl Survivors of sexual offending under the care of SVSG as a residence of the Campus of Hope. Her case was successfully completed in February 2019 with the step father being convicted and sentenced to 17 years imprisonment.
The 16th Hawai`i International Summit is a multidisciplinary gathering of professionals working together to tackle the major issues in fields dealing with violence, abuse, and trauma.
The goals of the Summit includes bringing local, regional, national and international leaders, practitioners, advocates as well as those working on the frontlines with children, adults and families to network and learn from each other. Specifically to the work of SVSG, the Summit looks at multidisciplinary solutions to prevent family violence, child maltreatment, sexual violence and trauma.
Speaking from the Summit, the SVSG President expressed her gratitude to the With and For Girls Award of London, for the opportunity enabling SVSG to be represented at the Summit. “What an opportunity for lifelong learning and networking. Even our proud Girl Survivor is experiencing being ‘out there’, learning and meeting new people at the Trauma & Healing and Growing Leadership Sessions.”
SVSG’s representation to the 16th Hawai`i International Summit is made possible through the ‘Girls Visibility Fund’, a new funding opportunity available to With and For Girls Award Winners. SVSG became a WAFG Award winner in 2016 and continues to be supported by the With and For Girls Collective.
A bowl of hot soup provided during training is a mentality change strategy to address the low self-esteem of the child vendors under training with the Samoa Victim Support Group. It is to instill in the children’s minds that in building up their skills, they will never go hungry again.
And this rationale has resulted in the program being referred to as the ‘Hot Soup’ Skill Building Training.
The program is coordinated by the Samoa Victim Support Group with funding support from the US Embassy of Samoa.
It is SVSG’s contribution to address the growing child vendor problem in Samoa.
Eight months now into the program, we have seen transformation in progress; a total of 10 students who attended the program in 2018 are now enrolled for the first time in the mainstream education; more and more child vendors age 12 – 14 are interested in the program and have enrolled this year.
When the U.S Ambassador Scott Brown & his good lady visited the Hot Soup program last month, the students proudly showcased their work of art much to the Ambassador’s amazement.
In a comfortable learning environment where the children are not looked down at for their inability to read and write, the child vendors turned artist or carpenter are being economically and socially empowered.
This is not Post School Education and Training (PSET), but rather, livelihood and soft skills training under the Hot Soup Skill Building program so that in the end, the children will never go hungry again.
From rationing buckets of rain water to walking 1 – 2 kilometers to fetch spring water, to having its own water tank, Agaese Pinati of Malaemalu Falealili is counting his blessing this Easter weekend.
Agaese’s family is one of the recipients of a 10,000 litre water tank courtesy of the ‘Clean Water’ Project by the youth members of the Samoa Victim Support Group.
The family relies on Agaese’s plantation for a living; the mother works at Saletoga Resort to help with the children’ education and other necessities. The water connection does not reach the Agaese household further inland of Malaemalu.
When the SVSG youth members visited the family this week as part of its project follow up assessment, Agaese took the opportunity to acknowledge the donors for his family’s water tank, namely Fexco Samoa Limited, the Samoa Spare Parts and Pepe Christian Fruean.
An emotional Agaese thanked God for the changes that the water tank has had on their lives, especially the safety of his children.
“My children no longer walked early mornings or late evenings to fetch water from the spring when we run out of rain water. It is even harder with an elderly mother to look after.”
Since November 2018, the SVSG Juniors have been fundraising and soliciting support from its local and international supporters to ensure that underprivileged families liked Agaese have access to clean water every day.
According to Ms. Carmenita Solaese, the SVSG Junior President, “the lack of access to clean water is a struggle faced by many of our families that sought welfare assistance with SVSG, hence the decision by the SVSG youth group to reach out and do something about it. Globally, it is the SVSG Juniors contribution to the achievement of one of the SDG Goals for Clean Water & Sanitation.”
Todate, there are 11 families around the rural villages of Upolu that are now enjoying access to clean water, thanks to the generosity of donors to the ‘Clean Water’ Project.
On a sunny Tuesday morning, 26thof February 2019, I was introduced to the S.V.S.G. office and my new co-workers. I could feel the warmth of the atmosphere in S.V.S.G by the many smiles I received during my tour around the office. The first impression of the S.V.S.G. has since proven to be just that – warmth, caring, welcoming, which I think reflects the impressions people get when they come into its office whether it is for advocacy programmes, victims of abuse or just in need of help or guidance.
I flew in from the winter landscape of Denmark leaving my husband to take care of our two teenagers, our house and the dog. I had managed to get a two months break from my work as a counsellor dealing especially with people who suffers from suicidal behavior and thoughts which not only affects them but have a huge impact on their families and friends. My personal goal was to get another perspective on how life is on the other side of the world compared to my own and set an example for especially my children to inspire them to do good in the world.
Little did I know how much I was to be moved, inspired, taught and blessed by the people I have met during my two months working as a volunteer in Samoa, through the Projects Abroad program.
One of the first projects I was involved in was the Nofotane Women’s Project, which provided the women skills to help their families with income and at the same time raise their status within the families. It was done with full respect to the cultural aspect of the Nofotane Woman and did not try to erase this Samoan cultural institution.
The Advocacy Programme was another involvment – especially for the women offenders of violence referred from the Family Court. It is a very unique form of partnership with the courts that I haven’t seen anywhere else in the world. Eventhough I unfortunately do not speak Samoan, the sweet Facilitators of the programme do, and they invited me to share my views on the different topics they covered during the programme – helping with translating my contributions and vice versa. After the participants finish their programme S.V.S.G. prepares a Final Report for the Court and represented the participants during the Court’s final sentencing; often with a positive result. It was another eye opening experience for me, accompanying S.V.S.G staff to the Courts on some of these occassions.
On a daily basis, I worked closely with the SVSG Cases Division which also showed me that not all is as beautiful. The cases that we handled are very different and covered situations like assistance with referral letters to the Maintenance Division at the Courts, helping people in need of medical devices, dealing with the overwhelming financial burdens of funerals and marriages, counselling between families or couples and listening to the heartbreaking stories of sexual abuse, incest, suicide and domestic violence. We have an efficient and close working relationship with the Police and help people to speak up and address their cases to the right authorities.
I am so grateful to be part of such a strong voice for the Samoan people through the work of S.V.S.G. Thank you so much for letting me be part of this family – even if it was only for a limited time! I will return to Denmark so much wiser not only of the circumstances of the Samoan people, but also feeling so enriched. [Iben Lauridsen, Qualified Psychotherapist,Denmark]
Throughout the year, the children survivors of gender based violence cared for at the Campus of Hope have been at the receiving end of in kind donations from the members of the community.
From government leaders to church, village, school and family leaders, the children have been adequately supported.
It is therefore noticeable at this time of the year, members of the Catholic faith, donating to those in need as part of its Lenten Season of Praying, Fasting and Giving.
Over the past weeks, the children residence at the Campus of Hope have received donations and fellowship opportunities from the different parts of the Catholic faith in Samoa.
There was the school get together between the Moamoa Pre-School and the School of Hope where the students from both schools gathered at the Campus of Hope for a Fun Day of fellowship. Thank you so much Sister Palepa, the sisters, teachers and the parents for coordinating this get together for the students.
Then we had a donation of a variety of bulk food and toiletry supplies from the Sinamoga & Moamoa Parish under the leadership of Father Petelo Vito. Thank you so much Father Petelo for including the Campus of Hope as part of the beneficiaries of the Parish’s Lenten commemoration.
And during the weekend, the children enjoyed pre-packed lunches delivered to the Campus courtesy of Father Mikaele Tuimavave, the Director of the Catholic Schools in Samoa.
The SVSG President thanked each and every members of the families from the Parishes and the Schools, that have contributed to these donations. “You have sacrificed a portion of your own daily needs, to give to the children of hope in recognition of our Lord and Saviour’s ultimate sacrifice for us all. Faafetai, Faafetai, Faafetai tele lava.” Siliniu Lina Chang, SVSG President
The empowered nofotane women weavers are excited to be part of the Susu & Meli Project “The Milk & Honey” Project with Ms. Nicole Penman, currently undertaking PhD at the University of Queensland Australian, on Women’s Entrepreneurship in the Pacific.
Through the MECHTA VAN BOOGERT AWARD, Ms. Penman is working with at least 20 Nofotane Star Earners to begin an ethical online marketplace, sourcing artisan goods from the Pacific and selling them as on-trend accessories to women primarily in Australia.
According to Ms. Penman, “My hope is to take the incredible talent of women in the Pacific, such as those who make the Nofotane products, and engage the international community to ultimately build up an ethical online market place - where the artisans themselves are receiving a fair price, a percentage of proceeds return to community projects and the wider community gets to enjoy the wonderful art and culture that is produced.”
The first workshop for the Nofotane Star Earners was held in Apia early February, where the women learnt, how as artists, they should start designing their products before creating them.
An inquiry from a children’s wear label in Australia, Ina Swim, for an order of 200 very specific hats, saw the nofotane weaver artisans discussing diameters and circumference, fumigation and shipping costs, in preparation for this opening in the Australian market.
The transformation in the nofotane women is obvious. They are now more confident, they have the smile of an empowered woman and they are involved in decision making for their own benefit. They are sustaining their self-employment.
“Thank you so much Nicole for reaching out to support the potential of our nofotane women. Your opening up these market opportunities in Australia is improving the nofotane women’s access to sustainable employment.” Siliniu Lina Chang, SVSG President
“I know what you have been through. I’ve been through the same thing; they called us survivors. We have been hurt, but we survived. I am a survivor myself.”says Scott Brown.
Spoken like a true survivor himself, the U.S Ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa, Scott Brown and his wife Gail Brown were accompanied to the Campus of Hope by the U.S Embassy Apia Chargé d’Affaires Tony & Izumi Greubel.
As the U. S Ambassasdor shared with the children survivors of gender based violence under the care of Samoa Victim Support Group, they were all attentive, focusing on his every word because it speaks volume of the recovery journey every survivor goes through.
Leaving his seat with the rest of the visiting delegation, Ambassador Scott Brown moved closer to children, reassuring them that being at the Campus of Hope is not the end, but rather the beginning.
“I want to let you know that I understand what you go through. Not a single day goes by that I don’t remember, but I tried to move past it, and so should you.” The Ambassador then gifted the children with his book titled ‘Against All Odds’ together with CD’s from his eldest daughter and American Idolsemifinalist Ayla Brown.
Culminating Ambassador Scott Brown’s visit at the Campus was a walk through the Hot Soup Skill Building, a livelihood and educational program carried out by SVSG for the child vendors with funding support from the U.S Embassy Apia.
SVSG President Siliniu LinaChang acknowledged the support from the U.S Government towards the work of SVSG. “Thank you so much Ambassador Scott Brown and your beautiful wife Gail for visiting the children at the Campus. You have inspired them with your story as they each go through their rehabilitation programs. Thank you also for supporting the Hot Soup Skill building program for the child vendors which is making a positive change in their lives.
She travelled all the way from Denmark to volunteer for Samoa Victim Support Group for a period of nine weeks. Teacher and social worker at Kindergarten Kong Tumle, Copenhagen, Ms. Kristina Andersen shared her story of admiration for the survivors of gender based violence cared for at the Campus of Hope.
Thank you so much Kristina for being part of the SVSG family of supporters and friends. Despite being oceans away from home, you blended in well as part of the SVSG growing family. As Kristina completed her 9 weeks with SVSG, we are sharing her story because according to Kristina “If I can come all the way to volunteer for vulnerable children, so can you. ‘We Can, You Can’”:
"To be part of S.V.S.G has been a great experience for me. I am already close to the end of my 9 weeks of volunteering and have had so many wonderful experiences.
When I arrived I was very lucky to be part of the big “BUDDYING UP” project for child vendors. During the two weeks of the program I met some incredible sweet and strong kids and young people. The S.V.S.G made it possible for the kids to go to places they have never been before and it was so rewarding to see the happiness and excitement in all their faces. They found joy and appreciation in small things, which many kids back in Denmark are taking for granted.
After ending the project it has been such a joy to go around town and met up with some of the kids again. Especially one meeting at the bus station made me so happy- here I met one of the small girls from the program, standing in her new school uniform with her new schoolbag and both her and her mother looked so proud and happy.
To be part of the programme also gave me a fantastic opportunity to get a glimpse and learn about the Samoan life. I immediately feel in love with the happy spirits of the Samoan people and the passion for traditional music and dancing and the joy it brings- But I also saw big problems and challenges in the Samoan society with child vendors and abuse. Thankfully the people of Samoa have an organisation like the S.V.S.G. For me it is terrible thinking about how the lives of these vulnerable children and woman would look like without the hard work and support from S.V.S.G.
I have also spent a lot of time at the Campus. I have a big class with kids with different ages and different needs. And right from the start I really loved spending time with the kids and we have lots of fun together.
Many times I have been so moved by their stories and I am full of admiration over how strong and brave these kids and young women are. I feel very proud to be a part of the S.V.S.G. team and I will always remember this experience and do my best to keep on supporting the S.V.S.G. when I go back to Denmark. "
The representatives from Samoa Victim Support Group (SVSG) that attended the New Delhi Seminar as part of ‘Breaking the Cycle: Men & Boys Engage to End Violence Against Women’ project have returned home.
Franziska Sione and Mane Su’a have returned with improved knowledge on engaging men and boys as a solution to ending violence against women.
For 12 months since January 2019, the 5 international organisations lead by the Centro Rural Joven Vida (CERUJOVI) in Spain, the Youths First in Madagascar, the Center of Health and Social Justice in India, the Emancipator in Netherlands and the Samoa Victim Support Group in Samoa, will gather in 5 different locations to brainstorm, to learn from each organsiation’s experience, to draw up advocacy tool kits and to visit places where the engaging men and boys concept is being practiced.
For Franziska and Mane, they were both overwhelmed by the practicality of the best practices adopted by each of the 5 organsations represented at the Seminar. From grassroot advocacy to changing masculinity views to recruiting men of change, these best practices are effective when blended in well within the local context.
The SVSG Youth Empowerment Program with the young offenders referred from the Youth Court was highlighted during the SVSG presentation of best practices. According to Franziska who is also the SVSG Junior Coordiantor, “it is amazing how a best practice from a small island such as Samoa, captured the attention of the organisations from well developed countries such as India, Netherlands, Spain, and Madagascar (and vice versa).”
The next gathering of the project team for the ‘Breaking the Cycle: Men & Boys Engage to End Violence Against Women’ project will during a Study Visit in the Netherlands in May 2019.
But before then, Franziska and Mane have a lot of work cut out for them, to ensure that the knowledge and the best practices shared during the New Delhi Seminar is well incorporated in SVSG’s program to end violence against women.