There is no doubt that the last few weeks have been hard. Across the world, we are facing an unprecedented larg-scale crisis for survival against the COVID-19. Here in Samoa, the 4th April 2020 will mark the end of the 14 days State of Emergency called upon by the Government on 20th March 2020.
The S.O.E saw the closing off of our borders, restricting the gathering of 5+ people, distancing and quarantine of people, to name a few. The priorities at this stage are prevention and safety. However, Samoa Victim Support Group had seen the general uncertainty within our families due to this crisis, perpetuating violence, hence compromising the safety we hope to maintain at this time.
As people are called to stay at home, others are losing their jobs, while the ones fortunate enough to continue working are faced with transportation problems with buses called to a halt. The result saw people being forced to remain in close proximity to their abusers, the laid off breadwinners struggled to feed their families, while the ones who used to commute to work via buses have to fork out a more expensive taxi fare. The uncertainty is perpectuating violence.
Over the last 2 weeks, SVSG had handled minor cases from families fighting over the rationing of their food during dinner; to severe matters where a husband allegedly run his wife down with a family car. Safety had been violated due to our people in a state of uncertainty.
For instance, SVSG evacuated a mother and her 6 children who called the SVSG Help Line at 5.00 in the morning, as the children have gone for a day without food, the father had been laid off from work. In another incident, a mother of 4 children reached out to the Help Line for assistance as her husband had threatened to kill her when he returned from work. SVSG worked together with the Police in evacuating this mother and her children from the village, to the safety of the Campus. SVSG had also applied for 4 Interim Protection Orders for the protection of the mothers involved in these severe cases.
The Help Line had never been busier than ever, as per the last two weeks, especially with women experiencing violence in the home while being on lockdown; from fathers stressed over the loss of jobs and even from young children crying over the phone for food. Interesting also, we have the ones who have everything going well for them, except that during these quiet times, they now have the courage to speak out, while remaining anonymous.
Safety! is therefore the surviving word for this pandemic, especially given that in crises like this, pre-existing social inequities are often deepened.
For those experiencing violence, especially those forced to stay in lockdown with their abusers, know that you are not alone. Help is not on Shutdown. Call SVSG on the 800-7874 Help Line. It is free, and works 24 hours.
For the ones who feel isolated due to the effects of distancing and quarantine, look at it as a critical time to pause, rest and reflect. There is always sunshine after the rain. Because as the Word for today says, Let us shield ourselves with that overcoming attitude: ‘This is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.’ (1 John 5:4).
“Stay safe everyone; and keep the faith.” Siliniu Lina Chang, SVSG President
Dear SVSG Friends and Partners
Across the world, we are facing an unprecedented large-scale crisis. It is humanity fighting for survival against the deadly COVID-19. Safety therefore requires us to physically separate from one another in a distancing and quarantine movement to stay alive. Please know that we here at SVSG are holding the well-being of each of you close in our minds, while bridging the distancing and quarantine through virtual connection.
For those experiencing violence, especially those forced to stay in lockdown with their abusers, know that you are not alone. Help is not on Shutdown.
For the ones who feel isolated due to the effects of distancing and quarantine, look at it as a critical time to pause, rest and reflect. There is always sunshine after the rain.
SVSG’s mission is to ensure that victims of crimes and those in need are well supported to be safe and in control of restoring their lives. Safety! is therefore the surviving word for this pandemic, especially given that in crises like this, pre-existing social inequities are often deepened.
SVSG in the coming weeks will do its best to collect and share information that might be useful to you in this challenging moment. This virtual connection is made possible through the financial support from the Spotlight Initiative (UNDP) here in Samoa.
In the meantime, please know that our hearts are with you, particularly those who are hurt most in uncertain circumstances like these.
In hope and solidarity, Samoa Victim Support Group
Help Line: 800-7874
As the world is grappling with an unprecedented large-scale crisis with the rapid spread of COVID-19, Samoa Victim Support Group’s (SVSG) Road Trip across Savaii continues to gather momentum. From Maota, passed Taga, Salailua, Sagone, Fagasa and working our way back to the Faasaleleaga constituency, it has been a productive Road Trip.
Raising awareness on human rights issues such as violence, stigma and discminiation affecting the minority groups of women, girls, LGBT+, person with disability and the elderly in Samoa, the Road Trip is right on time, as SVSG anticipates an increase in domestic violence incidences should Samoa go on lockdown if COVID-19 reaches our small nation.
The proud SVSG village representatives gathered either at the church minister’s residence or the village fale, to be further empowered on how they can be our first point of contact in the village communities to end domestic violence, stigma and discrimination towards the most vulnerable.
There were a lot of questions and concerns on the looming threat should the COVID-19 hit our shores. And according to the SVSG President Siliniu Lina Chang, “if the coronavirus pandemic has taught us anything, it is that our individual wellbeing is deeply intertwined with the wellbeing of everyone else. As such, if we don’t take care of those who are most vulnerable in our society and those who care for others, no one wins.”
The SVSG village represenatives were therefore encouraged to continue being the voice of the voiceless. Because for women survivors of violence and those at risk, any government decision for a lockdown will mean these women, girls, persons with disabilities, the elderly and the LGBTQ+ community will be trapped in their homes with their abusers, isolating them from the people and service providers that could help them.
The SVSG President therefore acknowledged the support from the Equality and Justice Alliance which enabled us to set on this Road Trip. At the same time, President Siliniu Lina Chang is calling on our people, especially to the most vulnerable population that help is available through the Help Line number 800-7874, should they experience domestic violence should the government call for a lockdown as protection against the COVID-19.
“Remember, being physically distant does not mean being alone. SVSG is always within reach by contacting us on the Help Line.” Siliniu Lina Chang
In light of all that is happening around the world with COVID-19, we would first like to let you know that we are praying for you and your families. The world is becoming a very dark place right now as we see the youth turn against the elderly, the wealthy turn against the poor, and the strong turn against the weak. It is becoming a fight for survival in many countries for even the most basic necessities and often the most vulnerable groups of people are being forgotten. We want to let you know, that despite what is happening around the world, Samoa Victim Support Group continues to remain focused on the vulnerable, and we are still available, ready to receive the vulnerable with open arms.
Due to the seriousness of the COVID-19, we have made the proactive decision to close The Campus of Hope as of Thursday 19th March to all volunteers and visitors until further notice. This decision is very hard for us to make as the children love the volunteers, however, we are first and foremost a Child Protection Agency and must put the protection of the children at the forefront of our work. Samoa has now had its first suspected case of Corona Virus, and we are therefore doing our very best to be proactive.
“Please pray for the children at The Campus of Hope as they are continuously in need of help and assistance. As children under the protection of SVSG they are already vulnerable. They have already felt left behind. However, they don’t have to feel left behind in a time such as this. Please, if you are able to provide any form of assistance during the Corona Virus Pandemic that would ensure the children are well looked after, that would be most appreciated.”
“May God bless you all.” Siliniu Lina Chang, SVSG President
Samoa Victim Support Group is on a Road Trip to raise awareness on the human rights issues such as violence, stigma and discminiation affecting the minority groups of women, girls, LGBT+, person with disability and the elderly in Samoa.
Starting in Savaii and working its way back to Upolu, the Road Trip will see an intersectional movement by SVSG, using the human rights based approach, and the gender equality approach, to empower these minority groups. Through awareness raising and Open Days, the minority groups will learn to know and claim their rights, while increasing the ability and accountability of individuals and institutions who are responsible for respecting , protecting and fulfilling these rights.
The Road Trip will therefore see an intersectional movement that addresses the discrimination, stigmatization and gender based violence towards women, girls, and person with disability, as well as the same human rights issues faced by the LGBT+ community in Samoa.
According to the SVSG President Siliniu Lina Chang, “The Road Trip targets the grassroot community; gauging the support of village and church leaders to influence a change in mentality towards these minority groups, while encouraging them to speak out.”
The Road Trip is SVSG’s contribution to the combined work of the Regional Civil Societies Organization, coordinated by the Equality & Justice Alliance to make justice work better for marginalized women, girls and the LGBT+ people in the Pacific. In 2019, Samoa Victim Support Group and the Samoa Fa’afafine Association together with local partners carried out the National Advocacy Campaign to end violence, stigma and discrimination.
The Equality & Justice Alliance is a consortium of 4 international non-governmental organisations in London namely the Sisters For Change, Kaleidoscope Trust, Human Dignity Trust and The Royal Commonwealth Society.
The latest horrific incident of domestic violence in Samoa over the weekend, which killed two people and destroyed a property, is once again, violence at its ugliest. It is just as Jesus contrasts himself with “the thief.” “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life and have it in abundance.” John 10:10
It happened at the time when the country and the Pacific region were making noises throughout the week here in Apia, on the rights of the child, as the historic 84th Extraordinary Session of the Committee on the Rights of the Child was a wrap.
It hit us harder as the Spotlight Initiative was launched in Samoa; a global, multi-year partnership between the European Union and the United Nations to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls.
It was a deadly blow to the efforts of all the local and regional Advocates/Activists on Ending Violence Against Women and Girls.
But some things are just beyond our control no matter how tirelessly we work round the clock to eliminate the ugliness of violence from our communities. We will never know what triggered this man on a Saturday afternoon, to kill his wife, to destroy the petrol station where she worked, before taking his own life.
What we do know is that our people, here and abroad, continued to tolerate violence as the norm. While time may heal, the healing will only start once we confront ourselves with the ugly reality of violence; that it leaves us traumatized, broken, lost and for others, it becomes an intergenerational curse passed down to our children.
During this week, we received phone calls, emails and walk in clients who have tolerated violence as the norm, yet, were prompted to come forward due to the horrific incident over the weekend. Some have kept silent for 15 – 20 years. Others have had children of their own, who are going through the same path.
But it doesn’t have to take such a path. The cycle needs to end.
“As the President of the Samoa Victim Support Group, I am calling on our people to help us help you better. If you or someone you know is being abused physically or emotionally, call us on the Help Line 800-7874. No amount of problem warrants an end to a precious life.” Siliniu Lina Chang
Much have been said and reported by the media this week on the child’s rights, as Samoa hosts the historic 84th Extraordinary Session of the Committee on the Rights of the Child.
But at the serene compound of the Campus of Hope which currently shelters more than 80 abused and abandoned children, Samoa Victim Support Group (SVSG) continues the daily struggle to unravel what lies beneath the whole child protection work.
This is due to the fact that it is a service beyond the provision of shelter, clothing and food for the rescued children. It is a service inclusive of the rehabilitation and restoration processes for each child.
From dealing with the mental health of a girl child impregnant from a sexual abuse experience, to the wellbeing of a girl child attempting to abort a pregnancy from the same. Then we have new borns with health complications from attempted abortion which required 24-hour care at the hospital. How about the mental health of the girl child who abandoned a child due to the stigma associated with being sexually abused? The intergenerational effect of trauma on these young girls is one of the inherent risks. And through these young girls experience as child violence survivors, there pathways in life are basically hopeless.
These are some of the ugliest effects of children’s rights violation that grows darker by the day, yet as a child protection agency, we deal with these on a daily basis.
As family to these children, we give them hope. And as survivors, we have seen some of them become child rights advocates themselves.
Fighting for a more just world for children therefore is not just a single organization’s responsibility; it’s a collective responsibility. And as with any movement, the power is precisely in the collective.
According to the President of SVSG, Siliniu Lina Chang, “SVSG was set up with a vision to ensure that victims of crimes and those in need are well supported to be safe and in control of restoring their lives through quality service. To date, SVSG continues to aspire towards achieving this vision above and beyond the call for action. It is a service from the heart.”
“It is a long road to recovery,” says the President of Samoa Victim Support Group, Siliniu Lina Chang. This was after the Group completed the first week of the Road to Recovery, the Monitoring and Evaluation process for work being done by SVSG on its Measles Outreach.
A total of 8 families who have lost loved ones to the measles were reached at Leauvaa, 6 were initially covered by the Measles Outreach and 2 extra families that have lost children to the measles recently. At Luatuanuu, SVSG visited the family of Fatima Filia Solomona, the 37 year old mother of seven children whose husband Filia Solomana was the 80th victim of the measles. In addition, 13 families whose members were infected with the virus were also visited.
Born out of the SVSG Measles Outreach, the Road to Recovery is the normal M & E part of any program undertaken by SVSG, to follow up on work being done and most importantly, to ensure that we are not one-off visitors to our families in the village communities.
SVSG’s statistics on the Measles Outreach show that a total of 1,216 people from 140 families in 37 villages in Upolu were reached; 70 deaths were recorded inclusive of 8 who were unregisterd at the time of the visits. This is the sustainability of SVSG’s work to the community. It is a service that is inclusive of the social, psychological and economic assistance to ensure that our families are well supported to be able to rebuild and move on.
According to Siliniu Lina Chang, “rebuilding our affected families with kindness, generosity and harwork is the normal part of our work as a support service organization, and we love it.”
The most notable observations from this week’s Road to Recovery work are both challenging and a blessing. First, we have seen how death have brought families closer together. There was an appreciative feeling towards life in general amongst the members of families who have lost loved ones to the measles, especially knowing how precious life is when seeing loved ones taken way too soon. SVSG will closely monitor the effect of this on the level of family violence reported from hereon as it is a very interesting trend being observed.
For other families, there remain to be too many children not in school as the parents are not yet fully recovered from the loss of their other children. Even the children who were affected by the measles and have recovered still looked weak. SVSG’s Psychosocial Team worked with these families during this week with follow up visits being scheduled, while its child protection work continues to look at the best interest of the child during this recovery period. It surely is a long road to recovery.
On more positive note, we have 14 unemployed nofotane women from the villages of Leauvaa and Luatuanuu voluntarily registered with SVSG’s economic empowerment program for nofotane women. SVSG will work with these women to assess their existing livelihood skill level for product development and linkages to market opportunities. At the same time, the SVSG (Junior) continues with its basic hygienic awareness and well-being assistance for the affected families.
The continued outpour of love and support from our communities here and abroad is humbling. “Thank you Jada Schultz-Faanana of the Hutt from Brisbane Australia for the donation of miscellaneous supplies and clothes; Lisa Ah Honi-Uini of Mapu Maia in Auckland for the donation of diapers, toiletries and many more; Rita Gorniak, the President of the Samoa Organization in San Diego California for pallets of donation received for the measles work; and last but not the least, Ms. Suzanna Rawson and the Pacific Forum Line team at Auckland New Zealand for coordinating the shipment of some of these donations to Samoa.”Siliniu Lina Chang, SVSG President
The coming on board of the Crops Divison of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, to join forces with the young climate activists of the Samoa Victim Support Group Junior (SVSG Junior), is a step forward for the climate resilience initiative.
The partnership will see the Crops Division at Nuu supplying seedlings and plants for the Project, while the youths will promote tree planting within the community.
For a start, the Campus of Hope compound will be the first pilot site, with the SVSG Juniors scheduling a fruit tree planting activity on Saturday, 25 January 2020 from 8.30am to 3.30pm.
Close to 20 youth volunteers who helped with the cleaning up of the surrounding environment for some of the families worst affected by the measles, will join in the climate resilience initiative.
The youths believe that educating our own families on ways to help conserve and preserve the environment is their contribution towards climate change action.
From sorting out waste and recycle materials to proper composts to tree planting, we are helping with the pressing need for action to allieviate the effects of climate change.
“Thank you so much Moafanua Tolo Tiosefa, the Assistant Chief Executive Officer for the Crops Division at Nuu, for being so accommodating towards our needs for plant and seedling supplies for our project. We are excited of what lies ahead of us with this climate resilience initiative.” Siliniu Lina Chang, SVSG President
The leaders of the Upolu Malie Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints represented the congregation in sharing the love of God with the children of hope as per the Church’s normal offering.
This was through a variety of donated supplies, from food to toiletries to taro, bananas and coconut; there was an abundance of blessings, shared by the Church with the children.
What a start to the new year.
The visit by the Upolu Malie Stake forms part of the LDS Church’s commitment to a partnership with the Samoa Victim Support Group (SVSG), to support the welfare needs of the children survivors of abuse under the care of SVSG.
The donation came at just the right time as the children’s supply of stable food has been very low.
How merciful is our God.
SVSG President Siliniu Lina Chang acknowledged the partnership with the LDS Church. “Thank you so much President Pulotu Lyndon Chu Ling, President Tema Siaunuua and President Sikuava Ajawas for coordinating this timely sharing of God’s blessings to your families, with the children of hope. We look forward to a successful year ahead for us all.”