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 email@example.com 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
The demonstration of Jesus’ astonishing power when He calmed the storm while travelling with His disciples across the Sea of Galilee, was the theme for the inaugural Sunday program for the Third Year students of the Malua Theological College with the children at the Campus of Hope for 2019.
It was a theme that guided the students missionary work with the children of hope this year, emphasizing entrusting the God of miracles to provide us with the inner peace amidst the calamities of this life.
Close to 30 third year students and their wives spend the Sunday with the children at the Campus, as part of their ‘Faamasani’ or Practical Ministry program. This was the first Sunday of a 5-weeks program by the Theological students with the children of hope. It has been an ongoing program since it first started with SVSG in 2011, which added to the spiritual guidance for the children.
According to Reverend Filemoni Crawley, the Lecturer in Practical Theology who lead the visiting delegation, “We wanted to share with the children the love of God, as He wanted us to remind the children that His love will calm any storm in our lives.”
For most of the Theological students, last Sunday was their first time at the Campus and it shows. The emotions, the parental love for the children, the fellowship in Christ; it was calming and soothing to the troubled souls of the young ones.
To ensure that they have a contribution towards the children’s daily caring, donation of miscellaneous food and toiletry supplies were presented before a blessed day ended.
“Thank you so much Reverend Maafala Limā, Principal of the Malua Theological College for supporting the sustainability of the partnership between SVSG and the College. This is our collective responsibility towards the abused and the neglected among us. Thank you also to Rev. Filemoni Crawley for coordinating such an innovative program for the children.” Georgina Lui, Chair of the SVSG Board
The Advocacy Program coordinated by the Samoa Victim Support Group (SVSG) for offenders of violence referred from the Family Court, is highlighted at the Pacific Regional Dialogue on Engaging Men to End Violence Against Women & Girls, in Sigatoka Fiji from 16th – 20thSeptember 2019.
Coordinated by the UN Women Fiji Multi-Country Office and the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre, the Dialogue provides for the first time in the Pacific, a forum whereby perpetrator counselling programme experts joined the Pacific partners to share on international best practice.
SVSG’s Advocacy Program complements the operation of the Family Court in Samoa where offenders are referred to SVSG for anger management counselling rather than their separation from their families if they were imprisoned. It has not been an easy path to take to end violence against women through the perpetrators themselves. This is because counselling has been viewed by our people as a foreign concept, hence getting the offenders to openly discuss anger in a safe space took a lot of courage. But five years now since SVSG paved the way for anger management programs for the Family Court, we have changed behavior, changed mentality and changed social norms with perpetrators of violence now becoming men of change to end violene against women and girls.
SVSG is represented at the Pacific Dialogue by one of its Men of Change advocates, Mane Su’a, who had just returned over the weekend from attending the train the trainers program in Sri Lanka for the Breaking the Cycle: Men and Boys Engage Program to End Violence Against Women & Children, in which SVSG works in partnership with Spain, Sri Lanka, India, Netherlands, Madagascar. According to the Chair of the SVSG Board Mrs. Georgina Lui, “all of these work is to ensure that our families and our communities are safe.”
The national child protection agency, the Samoa Victim Support Group (S.V.S.G.), has called on mothers in Samoa to ask for help and not to take the lives of their newborn babies as Samoa reels from a second case of fatal child abandonment.
The President of the S.V.S.G., Siliniu Lina Chang, spoke out in response to two cases of babies who were found dead in the past month, one at sea and another on Saturday, adjacent to a trash bin at the Mulifanua wharf.
“No child whether young, old or new born deserves to die at the hands of the parents due to negligence, pride or poverty. All children are a gift from God,” she said.
“The children fulfil God’s purpose for the growth of His Kingdom here on earth and they have the right to life.
“Sadly, the incidences of abandoned babies in Samoa of late, remind us that all is not well in our beautiful slice of paradise.”
Siliniu said that questions about whom "to blame and what causes these catastrophes are not ours to ask.”
“As a child protection agency, S.V.S.G. is more concerned with how can we save another child from being abandoned or how else we can help save mothers in such situations?," she said.
“We are appealing to all our mothers in these situations to please, know that help is just a phone call away.
“Having the courage to reach out for help will not only save yourself, but most importantly, that gift of a child.”
She also added that earlier this year, they were greeted one morning by a newborn left outside their office door.
“We never asked who [or] what but we knew that whatever the situation may be, a child has been saved. He is now a healthy child at the House of Blessings nursery at the Campus of Hope.
“Mothers, before you make a decision to take a life by your own hands, know that you are not alone. At S.V.S.G., we are your family, and we are just a phone call away.
“All children are a gift from God and as such, they have the right to life like you and I.”
The S.S.V.G. operates a 24-hour free help line number: 800-7874.
News from: Samoa Observer