The newly cemented small graves in front of the homes of our families visited by the SVSG Measles Outreach are by far the most amongst realities of the measles epidemic that has now claimed close to 60 lives of children in Samoa.
Day 3 of the SVSG Measles Prevention and Helping Hand Outreach took us to the underprivileged families living further inland of Leauvaa. Out of the 7 families visited, two of the families have lost 3 children to the measles; an unborn child from a mother 4 months into pregnancy, a 12 months old and an 18 months old.
There is a feeling of hopelessness within each of the households; the elderly grandparents continued praying for that much needed spiritual calmness; the young parents of the measles victims seemed all so lost; while the remaining children clung to the photos of their loved ones as they struggled to make sense of all the chaos.
For the 19 year old Noella Fa’atauu’u who is 7 months into her pregnancy, she smiled to us through her tears, as she talked fondly of her 12 months old daughter Noel, whose life was claimed by the measles virus on 18 November 2019.
Here we were, performing grief and loss counseling, yet, we were encouraged by the resilience of this young woman. She is drawing her strength from the support of her elderly parents, her siblings and her village community.
On the other hand, we had the 23 year old Taumaia Lio Willie, the pregnant mother who had lost her baby on 30 November 2019 as she was admistered with the measles vaccine. We found Taumaia still in bed, surrounded by her 3 and 2 years old daughters while her husband is remaining strong for the family.
A total of 10 families were assisted by the SVSG Measles Outreach at Leauvaa, comprised of 24 adults and 32 children. From the total of 56 people covered by the Outreach, 8 have been vaccinated in which 3 of those are children. There is a high risk of the measles spreading within each household due to the majority of them yet to be vaccinated. These families have been referred to the Disease Surveillance Team for vaccination schedule.
And while the SVSG Measles Outreach to our families in need and those in mourning continues, it has been a struggle to remain strong. Especially as we are constantly updated by the National Operation Centre of the increasing number of fatalities from this epidemic, majority are children. “Lord have mercy on the people of Samoa,” remains our silent prayer.
To the SVSG village representatives of Leauvaa namely Vaifale Soe, Taupou & Mapa Enosa, Peato Ah Sang, Upualise Samuelu and Tupana Sili, thank you so much for standing together with us as family.
Last but not the least, thank you Toleafoa Elon Betham and the staff of the CMN Company Limited for always responding positively to our request for assistance. Your donation of $500 will go a long way in supporting the SVSG Measles Prevention & Helping Hand Outreach especially our families who have lost loved ones due to this measles epidemic.
At the end of Day 3 of the SVSG Measles Outreach, we were able to reach 24 families: 10 families in Laulii (Day 1), 4 in Vaiusu (Day 2) and 10 in Leauvaa (Day 3); comprised of 58 adults and 94 children ages new born to 18 years of age.
Grief and trauma counseling were conducted for the parents and the families of 6/60 children whose lives have been lost to the measles virus to date. And as the child protection agency in Samoa, SVSG is taking its role seriously, and with compassion, because the future of Samoa is at risk, with the continuing loss of children’s lives due to the measles epidemic.
In response to the escalating measles crisis that is crippling our country to a state of mourning, Samoa Victim Support Group (SVSG), in its role as a support service provider, is taking a proactive approach to prevent and to lend a helping hand.
Referred to as the ‘SVSG Measles Prevention & Helping Hand Outreach’, the initiative was co-launched by the SVSG Patron Hon. Tuisugaletaua Sofara Aveau, Board Member Mulipola Anarosa Molioo and President Siliniu Lina Chang. The Outreach will be carried out for 3 weeks from 30 November to 21 December 2019.
The aim of the Outreach is to prevent as much as possible the spread of the measles, especially to our underprivileged families. This is through awareness raising in each families on the importance of household hygiene, how to care for the affected children, counseling for the traumatized children and their parents, and the provision of basic necessities.
While the Outreach targets close to 900 SVSG village representatives and their families throughout Upolu, Savaii and Manono-tai, the priority will be on the SVSG’s families living in the Vaimauga and Faleata districts. It is SVSG’s way of reaching out and reassuring our families that despite the severity of the deadly measles epidemic, SVSG is always here to support, to help and to care as Family.
Please support the SVSG Measles Prevention & Helping Hand Outreach by pledging a donation that will go towards the provision of supplies, printing awareness materials and travelling to our people in need. You can call the SVSG office on 25392 or email email@example.com should you need more information.
Together, we can prevent the spread of the measles in our families, while lending a helping hand to those at risk of being affected.
Day 2 of the SVSG Measles Prevention and Helping Hand Outreach highlighted the need for grief counselling support, for the parents and siblings of the children whose lives have been claimed by the measles epidemic.
At Vaiusu, the SVSG Outreach found the parents of the 3 year old measles victim still in shock; and except for the fact that a new grave is erected infront of the family home, it is obvious that the parents are going progressing through the denial stage. It just breaks the heart; and to think that this is only Day 2 of the Outreach, yet, we are growing weary from crying. This is normal as we are only human.
The Vaiusu Outreach covered four families comprised of 25 children and 13 adults, with 5 of these adults being SVSG’s village representatives for Vaiusu.
Aimed at raising awareness on prevention and cleanliness, the provision of counseling support to the grieving families and the basic food supplies, we are glad that we have taken the initiative. Because for the families that we have visited so far, they needed the reassurance that as family, we will stand together to see this catastrophe through.
Thank you once again to our donors thus far, the SVSG Melbourne, Fexco Samoa, Dress a Girl Around the World, and the latest donor, Lend a Hand of Seattle Washington courtesy of the Taito Family Ministry. Your support enabled us to reach close to 100 of our people since the beginning of the SVSG Measles Prevention and Helping Hand Outreach.
Last but not the least, the SVSG President acknowledges the compassionate shown by our SVSG village representatives namely Lini Toomata, Aitilotilo Henry & Laumata Crawley and Fala’i & Telesia Lupeni as we walked from families to families during the Outreach program.
Despite the measles epidemic claiming the lives of three children from the same family at Laulii, the strength of a family, of a community and of a nation, standing together, is shining hope to a country in a state of emergency.
This was the observation from the team of volunteers who joined the Samoa Victim Support Group when the Group took its Measles Outreach program to the village communities over the weekend.
The SVSG Measles Prevention and Helping Hand Outreach is SVSG’s way of reaching out and reassuring families that despite the severity of the deadly measles epidemic, we are stronger together as a family.
SVSG’s Outreach covered ten of the Group’s families at Laulii, including the most devastated Tuivale family who had lost three children so far to the deadly virus. In working together with SVSG village representatives at Laulii, SVSG was able to reach the most vulnerable families in need of support during these trying times; some of which have very limited access to clean drinking water, others saw three extended households of 8 adults and 15 children sharing the same bathroom while other families with younger couples in their early 20s have children running with barely any clothes.
It breaks the heart to see the hardships faced by our underprivileged families in this area; on top of dealing with the loss of lives from the measles epidemic. However, through family counseling, awareness raising on maintaining basic hygiene, healthy eating and the donation of food, SVSG was able to see the smile on the children’s faces and hope in the eyes of their parents.
With financial support received so far from SVSG Melbourne $5,000, Fexco Samoa $3,000 and boxes of girls clothes from Dress a Girls Around the World of New Zealand, we were able to help ten families of 21 adults and 37 children (5 months – 18 years old) of Laulii; with more families to be covered during the 3-weeks Outreach.
SVSG President Siliniu Lina Chang acknowledged the commitment from our village representatives at Laulii for carrying the SVSG motto with pride that we support, we help, and we care for each other as Family.
The increase in reporting of sexual abuse among young girls in Samoa of late is an ongoing challenge to the Samoa Victim Support Group (SVSG) and its work as a child protection agency in Samoa.
While most of the young survivors ended up under the care of SVSG at the Campus of Hope shelter facility, SVSG’s innovative approach to the survivors’ rehabilitation and recovery processes remain a priority. This is because the Campus is the only refuge for children survivors of gender based violence and abandoned children available in Samoa.
A range of rehabilitation programs are carried out depending on what is most suitable to a child’s recovery ability. The most popular one of late is the art therapy conducted by a Japanese volunteer with SVSG, Mrs. Junko Hoshino.
Through creative art and group work, the young survivors are able to describe sexual abuse and the feelings evoked in them; some just scribbled with no clear direction, others drew images with boundaries, while a very few drew positive images. The art therapy by Ms. Junko has assisted in the improvement observed in the mental, physical and emotional wellness amongst the young survivors of sexual abuse at the Campus.
As a work in progress, we have seen the images as representing the mysterious environment of therapy as well as of course the abuse experiences themselves, being transformed into beautiful work of art. With the festive season around the corner, glittering stars and other various Christmas ornaments are being created by the surivors of sexual abuse at the Campus, as part of their art therapy.
Mrs. Hoshino is accompanying her husband who is working for JICA for the next 2 – 3 years. And the President of SVSG Siliniu Lina Chang acknowledged the volunteer work by Mrs. Hoshino. “Thank you Junko for your contribution to the rehabilitation programs for the children survivors of sexual abuse at the Campus. Your smile added to the positivity of the art therapy.”
Four weeks into the Saving Lives Campaign aim at improving awareness amongst our people of support services available at Samoa Victim Support Group, the highlights saw the campaign reaching our people residing overseas; as well as people with disabilities.
The magnitude of the help being sought ranges from counseling support, parental guidance, assistance with family dispute, child abuse, domestic violence, sexual abuse, abandoned children with disabilities, homeless and mental disabilities, attempted murder and suicidal victims of violence.
For 4 weeks from 20 September to 19 October 2019, SVSG’s database recorded 168 support responses for Help Line callers compared to 115 support provided for Walk-in clients. This is a total of 283 people being helped within 4 weeks of the Campaign.
With limited resources and personnel, SVSG is humbled by our people’s confidence to come forward and seek help. A mothers cry for justice due to the brutal beating of her 16 year old son by the school principal; the request for food and water from a woman with mental disabilities; the desperate plea for help from a suicidal woman survivor of violence; the phone calls and emails late at nights from Samoans living abroad requesting help for their families in the villages; were some of the lives the Campaign has saved.
Having the means to access help at any time is the rationale behind the operation of the Help Line. For some of the callers, being able to dial that number amidst any violent situations has given them hope. And we could hear all the different type of emotions from the callers voice such as fear, anxiety, terror, depression, anger. Through the Help Line, we have been able to address these emotions while talking the callers through their different situations.
SVSG is aware that we cannot save the world. However, we are stronger in our belief that it is through smaller changes that multiple changes are born. Together, you and I can become the change necessary to save lives in our community.
Thank you to all the sponsors of the Campaign thus far, namely Bluesky, Digicel, Samoa Commercial Bank, Bank of the South Pacific, Moana Rentals, Pacific Ezy Money, Fexco Samoa, CCK Trading Limited, Blue Pacific Car Hire, Ford Hyundai Samoa, Federal Pacific Finance.
If you would like to be a part of the Saving Lives Campaign; as a spokesperson for the media, a volunteer driver for after hour cases or a sponsor for the roadside billboards, you are most welcome to join us. Call the Help Line on 800-7874, message us on the SVSG Samoa Facebook page, email us on firstname.lastname@example.org or stop by our office next to the Police in Apia.
“Thank you so much Samoa for trusting us to be of service to you all. As Family, SVSG is always here to support, to help and to care for you.” Georgina Lui, Chair of the SVSG Board.
For his birthday this year in October, the Chargé d’Affaires, Antone (Tony) Greubel of the US Embassy Apia did an unselfish act in supporting a cause close to his heart. He bought ST2,600 worth of Enfamil Infant Formula for the babies cared for at the Campus of Hope shelter facility operated by Samoa Victim Support Group. The babies are either abandoned, neglected or born of victims of incest rape.
It took one visit at the Campus for Tony, but it was enough for him to know that he wants nothing but the best for the children residence there.
When Tony presented the 6 x 6 boxes of Enfamil to the SVSG Office for the babies, he smiled and explained that “Enfamil remains the number one brand recommended by pediatricians for babies, and it is manufactured in my hometown, Evansville Indiana.”
Included in the donation were 10 cases of Aloha Maid soft drinks courtesy of the SAMPAC Limited.
The SVSG Patron Hon. Tuisugaletaua Sofara Aveau received the donation and thanked Tony for continuing to support the work of SVSG. “We thank you for thinking about us and the children of hope during this special occasion.”
Over the years, the US Embassy Apia has been one of the valued supporters of our work. It started with the first ever recognition of SVSG’s work in 2012 by the US Government Global Women’s Initiative through the Woman of Courage Award. Then thereafter, further support included Peace Corps volunteers assisgned to assist with the staff shortage; funding to support trainings for the SVSG village representatives in the general conduct of support work in the community; awareness campaigns to end violence against women; with the current one being the removing of child vendors from the streets during school hours and into the classrooms.
At the end of this second week into the Saving Lives Campaign, Samoa Victim Support Group and its supporting sponsors have impacted the lives of many more of our people, including children as young as 6 years old, to elderly in their 90s.
Two child vendors age 6 and 12 were being abused while vendoring on the streets; while a 16 year old girl was sexually abused by a church minister while under his care. In both cases, strangers who are concerned members of the community became these children’s voices.
An SVSG village representative alerted SVSG via the Help Line for assistance to evacuate the sexually abused victim for her safety. SVSG staff travelled to the village late at night to pick her up. She is now safe at the Campus of Hope while the matter has been referred to the Police for investigation.
For the 6 and 12 year old child vendors, they were saved by a young couple who witnessed them being abused by a relative at the side of the road. While some members of the public at the scene choose not to intervene, this couple brought the 2 children to the SVSG office for help at close to 7.00pm. Upon closer look, the 6 year old was in a severe condition compared to the 12 year old. The matter was immediately referred to the Police. The children are now under SVSG’s shelter care.
As the Campaign continues, this week saw a 35% increase in the number of walk in clients to SVSG’s office seeking help for a variety of matters. For the Help Line, a 24% increase in the number of callers has been noted compared to last week. And this highlighted a community, much more aware of our collective responsibility to help save a life. Thank you to our people for trusting us to be of service to you in times of need. Thank you also to the strangers who became the voice of those too afraid to speak out.
But the highlighted cases brought to SVSG this week singled out the children as the most vulnerable, hence, they need more of our protection, especially given the perpetrators are usually the ones who have been entrusted to care for them. Look at the church minister whom the 16 year old stayed with, yet he turned around and sexually abused her. This is violence at one of its most ugliest we have seen.
The Saving Lives Campaign therefore must go on. And as a nation, we should not be discouraged by these ugly realities, but instead, should challenge us to keep on the good fight. The coming on board of Lemalu Ray Ah Liki and the Samoa Commercial Bank as well as Afamasaga Opeta Siilata and the Federal Pacific Finance, to offer further support to the Campaign is therefore encouraging.
If you would like to be a part of the Saving Lives Campaign; as a spokesperson for the media, a volunteer driver for after hour cases or a sponsor for the roadside billboards, you are most welcome to join us. Call the Help Line on 800-7874, message us on the SVSG Samoa Facebook page, or stop by our office next to the Police in Apia.
As the Chair of the SVSG Board, I would like to acknowledge once again the co-sponsorship by Bluesky and Digicel for the operation of the 24-hour free Help Line. This has enabled our people in need of help to contact us. Together, we will continue to save lives.” Georgina Lui
A 20% increase in the number of callers to the SVSG 24 hour free Help Line has been noted one week following the launch of the organization’s Saving Lives Campaign. The SVSG offices at Apia and at Tuasivi also noted 15% more people walking in to seek assistance during the same week compared to its normal average clients.
These early statistics is an indication of an informed community. 5% of this increase calls were people on their way to work or to town when they heard of the campaign message on the radio and they called the Help Line to inquire about how we can help them out. One such caller was a 57 year old mother of six who was sitting on the bus when she heard of the campaign. She came in the same day burdend with marital problems and she just needed to talk it out. Gladly, she was referred to one of our in-house qualified counsellors who is now working with this family.
The other 5% of the callers were people that have read of campaign in the local newspapers or on the social media and called up SVSG to refer family matters that need assistance. One of the inquiries was from a Samoan residing in Australia, for assistance for her family here in Samoa.
And 10% of the increased calls were members of the community who offered to take in any abandoned babies brought under the care of SVSG. Thank you for taking up the responsibility to save a life.
In addition four more victims of sexual abuse between the ages of 7 – 17 have been referred either from family members or concerned citizens who have heard of the Saving Lives Campaign and became the voice of these girls. All the four victims are now safe at the Campus of Hope while their cases have been referred to the Police for its normal investigations.
The support from the business community has been overwhelming. One of the first being committed to raising awareness on the Campaign was the management and staff of the Moana Rentals and the Pacific Ezy Money Transfer through the sponsorship of the first two billboards now stationed around Apia. We have three more billboards going on this week around the rural communities sponsored by the Newton family through the CCK Trading, Blue Pacific Car Hire and the Hyundai Ford.
The progress of the Campaign to date therefore highlighted a community in solidarity to save lives. This is important because it is not just an organization’s responsibility, or the business communities nor it is the media’s responsibility alone, but it is everyone’s responsibility.
Because according to the Chair of the SVSG Board, Mrs. Georgina Lui, “no matter the circumstances, life is a gift from God, not for us to take onto our own hands.”
Thank you once again to the two main telecommunication companies, the Bluesky Samoa and the Digicel Samoa for continuing to sponsor the operation of the 24 hour free Help Line, enabling our people to reach us when in need.
The Chair and the Board of the Samoa Victim Support Group (SVSG) today launched the ‘Saving Lives’ Campaign; appealing to our people to Speak Out and ask for help when in need. Speaking during the press conference to launch the Campaign, Mrs. Georgina Lui, the Chair of the Board reiterated that“no problem is too big to warrant an end to a life; there is always Help available.”
The Campaign is an initiative at the wake of incidences of abandoned babies in Samoa of late. As the national child protection agency, child abandonment really gets to the heart of our work with children, which calls for more vigorous action.
The Saving Lives Campaign is focused on reminding our people that HELP is available through the services offered by SVSG such as: (1) The Free 24 hour Help Line number 800-7874; it offers anonymity for those who wish to remain anonymous; it offers counselling in confidence; and it is manned by a compassionate pool of staff (2) There is support for walk in clients to SVSG’s Apia office or the one at Tuasivi Savaii; (3) The SVSG village representatives in villages have been trained to offer first hand support.
An awareness on these services will be through a Multi-Media approach such as Help Line signboards along the roadside; Brochures/Pamphlets; Posters inside hospitals, church halls, school buildings, buses, ferries between the islands; Radio talk back shows; social media postings and messages; and open statements by government, church, village, business leaders on the television networks. The media will therefore play a very important role in getting the message on the support services available at SVSG out there to our community.
At the same time, the Positive Movement program to end violence, stigma and discrimination will further promote the ‘Saving Lives’ message that ‘Life is a gift from God, not for us to take onto our own hands, no matter the ciurcumstances.’
For 10 years from 2009 to 2019, SVSG has saved more than 100 abandoned babies left at the shelter gates, in front our our office in Apia and at Tuasivi, dropped off by concerned citizens who wished to remain anonymous, or babies born from mothers with mental disabilities roaming the streets. Despite the odd hours of the calls or how risky the situation may be, we thank you for choosing to trust us by picking up the phone and call us for help. We therefore say thank you to Bluesky and Digicel for continuing to sponsor the operation of the Help Line.
“As a country that prides itself as a Christian nation founded on God, we are calling on everyone to please, we have a social responsibility for each others safety. Let us support each other, help each other and care for each other, like we do towards ourselves.” Georgina Lui, Chair of the SVSG Board