What started out as a personal form of rehabilitation by one of the sexually abused survivors had turned into a popular initiative amongst the young girls at the Campus of Hope.
The creator of the Peace Garden at the Campus came to SVSG as an angry child, sullen and bad tempered. She isolated herself due to her inability to trust any anyone. Who could have blamed her when at 9 years old, she became another statistic as a victim of incest rape.
But through one child’s peaceful healing, others have found working the land and seeing how each plant grows, as a way of finding peace within themselves.
Today, the children are taught how to nurture a plant so that it will grow. From planting to maintaining to watering, it has become a competition amongst the young survivors of violence and sexual abuse. It not only gives the children a sense of responsibility, but most importantly, it becomes a part of their healing process.
The 27th livelihood training for the Nofotane Project centered at the Methodist Church Hall of Saloga Salelologa highlighted once again, the theory of change behind the economic empowerment of nofotane women in Samoa. It is based on how change initiatives lead to desired goals being achieved.
For the nofotane project, the change initiative relates to the nofotane woman, and how the empowerment program ensures that she will have improved access to sustainable employment and increased participation in domestic and community matters.
However, at Saloga, the expansion of the project reach to include faiava (married men living with their wive’s families), and youth, both as trainees and as trainers, highlight an expansion of the theory of change to the whole of community.
While the project focus is on the improved access to sustainable employment and the economic empowerment of nofotane women, the continuous expansion of the project reach beyond the most vulnerable group of women to include unemployed married men and youth is the uncalculated effect of the economic empowerment component of the project and the theory of change. To SVSG, this uncalculated effect of the project is part of the holistic approach the organization is taking to address family violence through encompassing the whole family in its program.
The majority of the participants were unemployed nofotane women at 71%, and similar to the previous training sessions, the participants were not only empowered economically through livelihood skills such as elei printing, commercial cooking, flower arrangement and handicraft, but also socially, through the self-esteem module SHINE, which is now proven popular with the nofotane women.
According to Rev. Samuelu of the Methodist Church of Saloga “this program will definitely bear positive results for the family, church and the village as a whole, as it includes a spiritual aspect to it through the SHINE self esteem module.”
With the continuous expansion of the project reach at this stage to include unemployed faiava and youth, the SVSG President Siliniu Lina Chang is grateful that the theory of change has embraced male as much as female. However she still maintains that “A nofotane woman will always be a nofotane; the project is not attempting to change this cultural aspect of the FaaSamoa. The project merely aims to improve the economic empowerment of women and to increase their participation in domestic and community matters, as these are some of the most important contributing factors to achieving gender equality.”
They rise up in the morning to a box of goodies to be delivered around town for a living. Others rise up to the stench from the Tafaigata Landfill as they look for food and for any useful items that can still be of any use to their families, even the expired goods dumped from wholesale companies are a luxury.
These were the lives of the child vendors that have been captured by Samoa Victim Support Group, through Operation ABC, a survey exercise carried out in the beginning of the year on child vendors around the Vaitele Industrial area. It was not the life of a normal child with the right to life or the right to education. As a child protection agency, SVSG took these children under its care.
At the Campus of Hope, what was once a garage has now been turned into a training camp for the future entrepreneurs under the Hot Soup Skill Building Training. An initiative that now sees child vendors from the Tafaigata Landfill and the Vaitele Industrial Area, learn how to write their names and read the alphabet in the mornings, then start on their skill building training in the afternoon. They have learnt how to earn a living from the work of their hands, such as handicraft, carving, carpentry, fabric printing, the opportunities are endless. Their enthusiastic in being educated, trained and fed sees them staying up late at the Campus to finish their work, having their soup, and enjoying each other’s company in a positive environment. It takes them away from being exposed in violent situations while being child vendors. Mosaic mirros are some of the creation from the Hot Soup Training Camp, and you are welcome to buy their products to support getting child vendors off the streets.
This is all part of SVSG’s support services to target the root causes of crimes and related social issues, through education, through teaching these children how to fish, rather than just giving them fish for the day.
The Hot Soup Skills Building Training is still a work in progress. However, what is obvious is that we are making progress in the transformation of these children’s lives, from being child vending to being educating. We know we have a long way to go, but we are changing lives, one child at a time.
It is not every day that any child gets to enjoy a gifts galore usually associated with Christmas, at this time of the year. But that was what the children survivors of violence and sexual abuse under the care of Samoa Victim Support Group at the Campus of Hope, experienced when Sam Atoa and his family visited them.
For seven years now, it has been a tradition for the Atoa family from Utah in America, to host a ‘Christmas in May’ activity for the children at the Campus. For this year, Sam and his family were joined by their youth volleyball team from Utah.
With boxes and boxes of gifts for each child, the gesture highlighted the shar ing of God’s love. According to Sam Atoa, “it is always a joy to share my family and team from Utah with my beloved in Samoa.” And the outpour of love was evident by how the family fellowshipped with the children, how the volleyball team took ownership of their time with the children and coordinated fun games and activities, how the children warmed to Sam, sitting on his laps, or being carried around while at times, he was overcome with emotion for the children. “I could never imagine what the children have been through, so if bringing over a few things help make them happy, and realize that there are people out there that love them and care for them, then our trips to Samoa are always worthwhile.” Sam Atoa
It was simply a ‘Christmas in May’ experience for the children and the Atoa Family. SVSG President Siliniu Lina Chang expressed her heartfelt gratitude and appreciation to Sam Atoa and the family for continuing to support the work of SVSG for the children. “The continuity of your presence at the Campus always brings joy to the children, as they looked forward to experiencing Christmas in May with you. Thank you for your sincerity Sam, and for sharing the love of God with the children.”
Sam Atoa’s visit was coordinated by the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints, one of the strongest supporters of SVSG’s shelter support operation.
The nofotane women of Sapapalii, Iva, Fusi and Fatausi gathered at the CCCS Hall at Sapalii for the 26th session of livelihood trainings for the Nofotane Project.
In addition to the women, their children and the youth were included in the training, an initative by Reverend Esera Auatama and faletua, to train the young ones as they are the future of families, villages and churches.
And it was an initiative that proved useful as we saw children easily learning how to make pork buns and mixing colors for elei printing. The nofotane women were therefore well supported as their husbands tended to the normal chores at home while their wives and their children attended the nofotane livelihood trainings.
At the handicraft session, the nofotane women were more interested to learn how to make bags from trash. Should they master this new skill, the nofotane women will not only contribute financially towards their families, but they will help with climate change initiatives by re-using plastics than disposing theme into the environment.
For the nofotane women of Sapapalii, the leadership role of Rev. Esera & Tamara Auatama of the Congregational Christian Church in Samoa, the only church denomination at Sapapalii, attested to the increased number of participants from Sapapalii.
“Thank you so much Rev. Esera and Tamara for being strong supporters of SVSG’s work. Thank you also to your contribution towards a successful training program.”
This is our collective responsibility towards gender equality. Because at the end of the day, “A nofotane woman will always be a nofotane; the project is not attempting to change this cultural aspect of the FaaSamoa. The project merely aims to improve the economic empowerment of women and to increase their participation in domestic and community matters, as these are some of the most important contributing factors to achieving gender equality.” Siliniu Lina Chang, SVSG President
Introducing herself to the older girls with gratitude and appreciation for blessing her with the opportunity to provide Maths lessons, Lefaoali’i Unutoa Auelua-Fonoti has become a role model to the girls at the Campus of Hope.
Volunteering every Thursday at 5.30pm to tutor the girls on Mathematics, Lefaoali’i takes time out from her busy schedule to share her knowledge with the girls.
According to one of the older girls who attended the Maths class, “where we come from, we don’t really matter. However, looking up at Lefaoali’i, a person of her caliber, a Regulator and an academic, making time to teach us Maths, means a lot.
Immediately, Lefaoali’i has become one of the role models to the older girls, the survivors of violence and sexual abuse cared for at the Campus of Hope.
One only has to look at Lefaoali’is academic and professional achievements, to be amazed by her modesty to reach out and empower the older girls at the shelter through continuing education.
Lefaoali’i is an Engineer by profession and she holds a Bachelor of Engineering (Electronics) from RMIT University, Melbourne Australia and a Masters of Engineering (Engineering Management) from the University of Southern Queensland, Brisbane Australia.
To the older girls at the shelter who are being taught Maths lesson by the Regulator herself, Lefaoali’i is simply a role model.
April saw the second time in a roll that Carol Robbins and Leuso McKenzie of the Pearl MedSpa in Portland Oregon and Scottsdale Arizona have successfully hosted a fundraising event for the Campus of Hope.
The first was in 2016 when the Pearl MedSpa co-hosted a concert with the Katinas to support SVSG’s work for the children at the Campus of Hope.
The April fundraising was more with the clients and supporters of Pearl MedSpa at Portland Oregon, who supported the fundraising and donated towards the Campus of Hope.
Pearl MedSpa offers advanced aesthetic treatments in the comfort of a luxurious spa environment. And the company believes that it’s important to give back to the community in order to help keep it healthy too. So despite the Campus of Hope being oceans apart from the Portland location where the latest fundraising event was held, the supporters believed that if we take care of each other, it’s that much easier to take care of ourselves.
According to the woman behind the success of Pearl MedSpa, Ms Carol Robbins “All of us grown-ups are just fine, the children are why we put the effort in these fundraising events. Sending prayers and love to the children at the Campus.”
In July 2017, donations from Carol Robbins saw the completion of the Carols House at the Campus of Hope, dedicated to her parents Del & Rose Alexander. The building houses the office to administer SVSG’s shelter operation and to showcase products produced by the children from their livelihoods training.
SVSG President Siliniu Lina Chang acknowledged the commitment from Pearl MedSpa to give back to the community through SVSG “Thank you so much Carol and Leuso for the heart to reach out and help the children survivors of violence and sexual abuse cared for at the Campus of Hope.”
A great sense of excitement summed up one of the packed livelihood training sessions for the Nofotane Project, hosted by the village of Lano Savaii for the Faasaleleaga No. 4 constituency.
Close to 120 nofotane women from Puapua, Asaga and Lano were trained on a skill of their choice either, weaving, handicraft, elei priting, commercial cooking or flower arrangement. The aim was to strengthen their capacity for economic livelihood so that they could contribute financially to their family’s well being which should eventually bring a sense of fulfillment for these women.
Most notable during the Lano session was the excitement of the nofotane women to learn as we saw them going about their learning process with smiling faces. And to SVSG, this sense of confidence is one the socio implications of being empowered. It’s a mentality change necessary for these nofotane women to learn a skill, earn from it and sustain it for themselves and their families.
And the support from the village leaders was amazing. During the 3-day session, high chiefs from Lano gathered around the training venue to cheer the women on. According to Mulitalo Talosaga of Lano, “each and everyone of us has hidden talents that if nurtured properly, will become blessings, so thank you to the Nofotane Project for reviving the talents bringing out these talents in our nofotane women.”
During the training session, we also noted some of the nofotane women using the opportunity not only to learn a skill, but also to set up network groups as we noted them discussing with other women their own strategies for everything from household finances to managing their families.
The interesting dynamic is, they are working on mastering a livelihood skill, but at the same time, they are spending so much time together and they can tackle all kinds of different topics that are part of their lives, and there is no other space for them to talk about it. According to SVSG President Siliniu Lina Chang, “Things like household finance, all these things don’t have a space in the lives of unemployed nofotane women normally, so by creating these women’s groups in the community and supporting their new business initiatives, we are also providing a platform for exchange.”
Because at the end of the day, “A nofotane woman will always be a nofotane; the project is not attempting to change this cultural aspect of the FaaSamoa. The project merely aims to improve the economic empowerment of women and to increase their participation in domestic and community matters, as these are some of the most important contributing factors to achieving gender equality.” Siliniu Lina Chang, SVSG President
The Director of the Homeland Security in American Samoa, Afioga Samana Semo Ve’ave’a acknowledged the work of Samoa Victim Support Group during his visit at the Campus of Hope.
First, there was the achievement by one of the SVSG youth members, the SVSG Junior Executive Ms. Petronilla Molioo Mataeliga, as one of the winners of the Queen’s Young Leaders Award, who will receive her award from Her Majesty The Queen at a special ceremony at Buckingham Palace in London.
Second, was the extent of the shelter facilities at the Campus of Hope for the children survivors of violence and sexual abuse under the care of SVSG. Director Samana Semo Ve’avea & his team took time out from their busy schedule to visit the children at the Campus. Having dealt with children victims in his line of work, Director Samana was however amazed by the magnitude of SVSG’s work given the limited resources available. He congratulated the SVSG President Siliniu Lina Chang on the Group’s perseverance for the protection of children.
It was while visiting the Campus that Director Samana also used the opportunity to congratulate Petronilla on being one of the winners of the Queen’s Young Leaders Award. “As a Samoan, I am proud of your achievement and I join our people in congratulating you.” Samana Semo Ve’ave’a.
According to a press release from the Coordinators of The Queen’s Young Leaders Award, Petronilla has been chosen in recognition of the work she is doing to help provide valuable employment opportunities for young people in Samoa by reviving traditional native handicraft skills.
The prestigious Awards programme, now in its fourth and final year, celebrates exceptional young people aged 18 to 29 from across the Commonwealth and the work they are undertaking to improve lives across a diverse range of issues, from supporting people living with mental health problems, helping children to receive a quality education, to promoting gender equality.
It was not developed by researchers in a University institution, or initiated by an environment activist. Rather, it was created out of the innovative minds of the nofotane women who are turning waste plastic such as coffee mix, twisties, bags of rice etc, into colorful bags.
The initiative by the nofotane women are not only helping revamp their economy, but also learning about climate change mitigation (ie: refraining from burning plastic rubbish or dumping rubbish in waterways). This is the holistic approach taken into the economic empowerment of women, as they are now looking at their backyards with innovative minds, seeing what once was trash, as an opportunity to earn, while conserving the environment.
At the 25th livelihood training session at Vaitele, the waste bag initiative was the most popular skill in which the participants opted to learn. News of women from previous traning sessions now earning a decent living and helping clean waste from the streets, encouraged the nofotane women of the Vaitele industrial area, to learn the new skill.
For some of the nofotane women, they are now trying new patterns to make other colorful accessories. The bags are now selling for between $8 and $25 depending on size and quality.
And this is sustainable self-employment opportunity goal of the Nofotane Project implemented by Samoa Victim Support Group with funding support form the UN Women Fund for Gender Equality.
The program has trained over 3,000 nofotane women so far, with over 415 now earning a living from the products created out of the skills being trained on.
“A nofotane woman will always be a nofotane; the project is not attempting to change this cultural aspect of the FaaSamoa. The project merely aims to improve the economic empowerment of women and to increase their participation in domestic and community matters, as these are some of the most important contributing factors to achieving gender equality.” Siliniu Lina Chang, SVSG President
President of SVSG Samoa