September 2018 will go down in the history of the Samoa Victim Support Group as the day that sets a pathway, for a more collaborative working relationship with an important partner to SVSG and its child protection work.
It was when the focal government ministry for child protection work in Samoa, the Ministry of Women, Community and Social Development, visited the Campus of Hope at Tuanaimato for the first time since SVSG was established in 2009.
Led by the newly appointed Chief Executive Officer Afamasaga Faauiga Mulitalo, the visit included all the management team such as the Assistant Chief Executive Officers of the Ministry; who walked through the practicality of SVSG’s child protection work for the abused, the neglected and the vulnerable children.
The CEO acknowledged with gratitude the existence of a safe place to support, to help and to care for the abused children of Samoa. According to Afamasaga, “visiting the Campus enabled the Management of the Ministry and myself to appreciate the magnitude of SVSG’s work, and now we are in a much better position to help out, despite the visit being long overdue.”
To the children, Afamasaga appealed to them as a mother, reassuring them that their being at the Campus, is not their fault.
The SVSG President Siliniu Lina Chang thanked the CEO Afamasaga Faauiga Mulitalo and the management team of the Ministry for taking time out to visit the children at the Campus. Says Silliniu, “SVSG has been looking forward to establishing this partnership with the Ministry of Women, Community and Social Development for a long time now, and we are glad at the way things are now progressing for child protection work in Samoa.”
She was born a normal healthy child, she could see, move and cry when she’s hungry. However, at nearly 2 months old, her mother noticed her daughter’s head growing slightly bigger. She was taken to hospital and was referred to a specialist who confirmed that baby suffered from congenital hydrocephalus (an excessive accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain).
The doctors observed that Baby Penina’s condition could not be operated on locally. As such, the parents immediately applied for overseas medical treatment since 2014. Further observations confirmed that children with this condition will be lucky if they make it through their first birthdays. The odds were against our brave hearted child.
As her head continues to grow, taking care of her became a challenge to the underprivileged family from Savaii. “This was the beginning of Baby Penina’s journey with the angels,” according to Moega Utuva, Penina’s mother.
Baby Penina was the youngest of 11 children. The parents rely on their plantation for a living. As such, they needed help, and in 2014, the parents sought SVSG’s welfare assistance for Baby Penina which continues to date.
Her birthdays were extra special as it marked another year of God’s grace on our dear child. One year turned to two, three, four and now going on to her fifth birthday in October. Our angel’s journey is all in God’s hands.
To-date, Baby Penina is the only survivor of congenital hydrocephalus out of the many others who were under SVSG’s welfare support, and have since passed on. With the support from the Little Angels Foundation of New Zealand (LAF) since 2016, SVSG has been in a better position to provide for Baby Penina’s daily needs.
Thank you to the Director of the LAF, Taa Lo Tam and the Foundation, for making a difference in the life of this little angel.
When SVSG visited Baby Penina before Father’s Day, the strains of her illness were visible. Her head is much heavier and has grown bigger. According to her mother, Baby Penina now rubs her head and moans every time she goes to sleep, the only signs to know that she is suffering.
Otherwise, she can still eat, laugh and dance, as if she was telling her parents and siblings that all is well. Thank you so much Baby Penina for reminding us all about endurance and valuing the gift of life. Thank you also to the Little Angels Foundation for the donation of $400 presented to baby’s mother during the visit to help out with Baby Penina’s daily needs.
The newly self-employed nofotane women of Savaii are hosting a Nofotane Market for Father’s Day at the Salelologa Market today.
Following the official closing of the Nofotane Project late July, these empowered women continued in their new role as breadwinners for their families.
And what better day to show their husbands that they are there to support, to help, and to care, other than on Father’s Day.
The colorful products on sale at the market attest to the empowered nofotane women’s innovative and creativity. It highlighted women with improved self-esteem as they rise up to support their husbands and their families through the work of their hands.
According to Fouvale Moafanua an elderly nofotane woman of Faletagaloa Safune age 70 years old, who is selling different products that she has printed, sewn and woven “this business is now assisting me in raising my children, paying for their school fees, and all things needed for my family. For so long, I have wanted to be a part of Samoa Victim Support Group to help others, but little did I know that I will be empowered through the nofotane program and become one of the program’s beneficiaries. Thank you SVSG for being a great help to our people.”
SVSG President Siliniu Lina Chang and some of the staff are in Savaii to support the Nofotane Women’s Father’s Day Market. “For our community in Savaii, please visit the nofotane entrepreneur at the Salelologa Market, buy their products and support their new business ventures, as part of their gifts to their husbands and families for Father’s Day.” Siliniu Lina Chang
A special acknowledgement of the commitment and the dedication from the SVSG village representatives from Savaii who coordinated this event and continued to support the empowered nofotane women through their presence at the Market. Malo le fai o le faiva. Fa’afetai le tautua fa’atamalii.
“A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.” Proverbs 17:22
This was the message from Pastor Faalili Pepe Ofisa of the Samoa New Testament Church of God at Magiagi, which opened the gathering of reformed men of the SVSG Advocacy Program and the SVSG Alumni, as they came together to celebrate Father’s Day with joyful hearts.
Held at the SVSG Conference Room, the celebration was hosted by the SVSG Alumni for the reformed men of violence that are currently attending the Advocacy Program as well as those who have successfully completed relevant counselling programs.
One of the volunteer facilitators for the program, Mrs. Fiu Leaupepe spoke on behalf of the SVSG President, to congratulate the men on this Father’s Day, and to acknowledge the positive changes they have gone through as reformed men, standing up against violence. Mrs. Leaupepe’s highlighted that “O le mea e i ai le alofa, e leai se popole, ae a i ai se popole, e le lagona. Where there is love, there is no anxiety, but should there be any anxiety, it is painless.”
The celebration was through singing, sharing of stories and reading out poems from the reformed men themselves. There is a healing effect when we are joyful, cheerful people. To be glad, happy or joyful, is when we choose to consider the good that God has done, rather than the misery and the opportunity to be sad and depressed. All of the men shared on anger and how it got the better of them. They all acknowledged the rehabilitation program as a wake-up call for them and a chance to start afresh as reformed men of change.
SVSG President Siliniu Lina Chang acknowledges the coming together of our fathers under the Advocacy program to celebrate Father’s day together. “Thank you also to the SVSG Alumni for coordinating this event and to Mrs. Tupuiai of Solosolo for the donation of gift hampers for the men which makes the celebration more joyous.”
Happy Father’s Day!
Samoa Victim Support Group congratulated Ms. Esmerelda Lo Tam who was awarded with one of 5 special awards namely the 2018 Asia Pacific Your SDG Innovative Award, during the Asia-Pacific Forum on Youth Leadership, Innovation and Entrepreneurship held in Beijing China from 1 – 3 August.
Esmerelda Lo Tam presented her sports wear line and brand "EI8HT" which hopes to encourage young women to be strong, independent and resilient, not only on the court but in everyday life.
It focuses on public health and better access to high quality, muscle friendly training equipment and training gear.
A well grounded and shy young lady, Esmerelda presented her award to the SVSG President Siliniu Lina Chang and her SVSG (Junior) collegues upon returning home, to acknowledge their support and prayers
And as a member the SVSG (Junior), Esmeralda has inspired volunteers in the youth sub-group of SVSG to keep pushing the limits with this wonderful achievement. Esmeralda was selected one of the winners from a list of 600 applicants, 19 speakers and the only Pacific Islander to be selected. According to Esmeralda, it is a humbling and blessed experience.
Thank you Esmerelda for instilling the essence of a young woman, to be strong, to be independent and to be resilient in your sports wear brand.
What a great example of hard work,determination and commitment. Congratulations Esmeralda. We are all so proud of you!
She merely heard about Samoa Victim Support Group from a good friend, but it was enough to get Carolyn Rogers to fly 20 hours from Abu Dhabi of the United Arab Emirates, to Samoa to volunteer at the School of Hope.
Carolyn is a New Zealander, a qualified primary school teacher who currently teaches at the Amity International School, a private school 1 hour away from Dubai. She heard about SVSG through her friend Kathy Basire, a criminal lawyer from Christchurch who spent some times in 2017 volunteering for SVSG.
According to Carolyn when she first inquired for a volunteer opportunity earlier in February, “Kathy speaks very highly of the work you are doing and I would really love to come and be a part of it in my summer break.”
And keeping her promise, Carolyn arrived late July and has been volunteering at the School of Hope until late August. It is such a pleasure working with Carolyn. Her teaching and caregiver experience were so obvious in how she dealt with the children at the school. She not only fits in well with the environment, but the children are drawn to her.
Thank you so much Carolyn for sacrificing your summer break to help out the children survivors of violence and sexual abuse cared for at the Campus of Hope. There is no doubt that you volunteered out of love.
When there was not enough money to look after our family, my father becomes frustrated and angry, resulting in my beatings on a daily basis. It started when I was 5 years old. I was the punching bag. The trunk of a banana tree was used to show my father’s anger as well as a Samoan broom. I felt frightened every time I heard my father’s voice outside our home. Other family members including my mother would not stop the beatings for fear of the repercussions. They would stand around while I danced to the brooms tune or carried on with whatever they were doing as if nothing was happening.
One time my sister was the cause of trouble at home but instead of disciplining my sister, again I copped the beatings because I was the punching bag. He was drunk a lot and this contributed to the scars shining like stars on my head, or the ugly bruises on my body. Each scars represented painful memories. One day, I was so scared that after being beaten up so badly, I took refuge at an aunt’s house. It was there that the Police were called and they took me to the SVSG shelter. I was 10 years old.
Since staying at the Campus, I no longer dance to the tune of a broom, my body is healing physically. I am clothed, fed, slept and educated well. I am loved by my family at the Campus, I confided to other children who became my brothers and sisters at the Campus, and who have also been the punching bags of their frustrated parents.
Sadly, my father’s beatings have left an ugly mark on my personality. There are times when I cannot control my anger which led to fighting with other children. I am a kid at 10 years old, and I am still trying to overcome this bad habit In time, I hope I will be able to forgive my father, but for now, the memories are still painful. I pray every night for God’s protection and I know He will heal my inner wounds. One day I hope to become a fire knife dancer, and who know, it could be my future. But for now, my days as the punching bag for my father are over.
“David said, The Lord who delivered me out of the claw of the lion and out of the paw of the bear, He will deliver me out of the hands of this Philistine. And Saul said to David, Go and the Lord be with you”
1 Samuel 17: 37
They came, they saw, and they promised to support the children’s welfare at the Campus of Hope, through a partnership.
And since the leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints in Samoa had made this commitment to SVSG, the different stakes throughout Upolu and Savaii have been honoring this partnership through visitation, donation and maintenance work at the Campus.
On Saturday, the Stake President Pulotu Lyndon Chu Ling led the youths from the Malie, Tuanai, Faleula and Levi Saleimoa Wards for their usual working bee at the Campus. Accompanying President Puluto were Bishop Lucky Passi, Bishop Vaitoa Lealaitafea and Bishop Saeleai.
More than 60 members from the Wards crowded the Campus. While the men did the lawn mowing, the women were sweeping and weeding while others cheered them on.
In no time, the Campus grounds was all cleaned up. The youth then played some games with the children while the leaders presented donations of bulk food and toiletry supplies as well as the much needed stable food such as taro, banana and coconut for the children.
And before the Wards left the Campus, President Pulotu presented to the youth on violence and its effect on the children ending up at the Campus.
Through engaging the youth of the Church in such community work, President Pulotu hopes that none of them will become a victim or a perpetrator of violence.
The Chair of the SVSG Board, Mrs. Georgina Lui congratulates the LDS Church for remaining true to the partnership with SVSG. “Thank you so much President Pulotu Lyndon Chu Ling and the Bishops from the Malie, Tuanai, Faleula and Levi Saleimoa Wards for coordinating such a tremendous support at the Campus of Saturday. You not only cleaned up the whole compound, but you ensured that the children have ample supplies for their daily needs in the next few weeks.”
The interest from families and friends to visit and fellowship with the children at the Campus of Hope attest to God’s beautiful love as it is being shared amongst His people.
Despite being no blood relation or connection, families continue to request via email, phone calls or walk-ins at the Office, to visit the children. In most cases, the families will bear gifts and donations. To SVSG, the most important aspect of these family visits is the heart behind the gesture; the heart to reach out and embrace an abuse child, a neglected child or a troubled one, even if they are not related.
The same was true for the Fiu family from Auckland New Zealand. Word of mouth enabled the connection through friends of the family who visited the Campus earlier this year. Thank you Tanita Naidoo and Mairena Yacoub for advocating for support for SVSG with your families and friends.
The young family has been looking forward to the visit since they planned it. According to Ben Fiu, his wife Ana who initiated the visit as part of their trip to Samoa, was more excited. However, this all changed when they entered the Campus and saw the children, then he knew that the visit was part of God’s appointment for their family, at this point in their lives.
Ben and Ana spoke of their hearts for the children and the love God has for them all. The Fiu family promised the children that this would not be the last time they would visit and be in contact with the Campus of Hope.
Thank you Ben, Ana and Josiah for the heart-warming visit. Thank you also for the donation of $300 that will assist with the daily caring of the children.
“As a promised child, Stephen-Fua can never be too young to take up God’s calling through community service to support young people.” Pastor Tuvai
According to the parents of 9 year old Stephen-Fua of California United States, it took them more than 10 years of praying to get a son. As such, when they had Stephen-Fua, to the parents, he was a promised child. At 5 years old, Stephen-Fua’s parents observed his willingness to help others. He wanted to help children with no shoes, with no food etc.
So while in Samoa, Stephen-Fua’s his parents brought him over to the Campus of Hope so that he can interact with the abused children. This is part of the Stephen-Fua Campaign to reach out and support other young people. It was inspiring to witness the love of God in this young servant and how he has committed his life to helping others.
The children at the Campus were motivated by Stephen-Fua’s campaign, and it challenged them to become agents of change in their communities once they are successfully reintegrated. The children’s interaction with others form part of their rehabilitation program while on Campus.
Pastor Tuvai shared that as parents, they wanted to fulfill their son’s dreams of serving and supporting other children who were less fortunate. He encouraged the children of hope of God’s plans, and how it goes beyond any injuries, scars or heartache they may have experienced thus far. As according to the Jeremiah 29 : “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Stephen returned to America after promising the children of hope that he will return to visit; that he will help out with the programs for the children at the School of Hope. As a promised child with privileges, Stephen feels responsible to help the children in need.
Thank you Stephen for being an inspiration to the children. And thank you Pastor Tuvai and Diana for the donation of food items for the children that day.
President of SVSG Samoa