Reverend Muaiava Malaki, Chair of the Samoa Council of Churches in Wellington New Zealand handed over a donation of ST20,000 to the President of Samoa Victim Support Group, Siliniu Lina Chang
Two members of the Samoa Council of Churches in Wellington New Zealand, accompanied the Chair of the Samoa Council of Churches in Wellington New Zealand, Reverend Muaiava Malaki, to officially handed over the donation of ST20,000.00 to the Samoa Victim Support Group (SVSG).
The donation came at the beginning of the new year while SVSG is working on sourcing out finds to finance its annual budget.
According to Reverend Muaiava, “we are here to convey the Council’s gratitude and appreciation to the Samoa Victim Support Group for the tremendous work you do for our country, especially in providing a refuge for the abused children.”
The donation will greatly assist with the operations budget for the Campus of Hope shelter facility which is the temporary home for close to 80 children ages 5 months to 18 years of age at the moment.
Over the years, the Samoa Council of Churches in Wellington New Zealand have been assisting SVSG and its work where possible, from fundraising events to monetary donations.
Receiving the donation was Siliniu Lina Chang, the President of Samoa Victim Support Group.
“Thank you so much Reverend Muaiava Malaki and the Samoa Council of Churches Wellington, for remembering the work of SVSG in your charitable donation this year. The donation will help us cover overheads and other operational costs for the Campus of Hope.”
Members of the SVSG Measles Outreach reckons that Fatima Filia Solomona, a 37 year old mother of seven children from Luatuanuu, is one of the bravest heros of the measles epidemic thus far.
With her husband Filia Solomona being the 80th victim of the measles who passed away just days before Christmas, Fatima gathered around her seven children ages ranging from 1 to 17 years old to thanked SVSG for reaching out to them.
And having worked with families like the Solomona’s for years, where the father is the sole breadwinner, the Outreach Team understood the dilemma faced by Fatima, yet, she showed us nothing else but a brave smile.
Fatima and her children were amongst the 14 families who were referred to SVSG via the Help Line or the social media, for assistance during the festive season as they mourned the loss of their loved ones to the measles. Leading SVSG village representatives for Luatuanuu, Faletua Valasi Aila Patea is tasked with monitoring Fatima’s family and reporting to SVSG on its progress.
At Nuu-fou, the Outreach Team travelled further inland from the main road to reach the 71 year old grandfather Mataio Matamata, whose 18 months old grandson Novema was lost to the measles.
According to Lui and Caroline Mataio, the grieving parents of Novema, “we have just moved to Nuu-fou 7 months ago, built a home and cultivated the land, only to loose our baby to the measles.”
Missionaries from Missouri, Jim and Mindy Wiese who were part of the outreach team encouraged Mataio Matamata and the family to keep the faith as the God of healing is always in control through His merciful love and grace.
The Outreach Team covered six villages of Luatuanuu, Vaiusu-uta, Nuu-fou, Vaitele-fou, Palisi and Leauvaa in response to our people’s call for assistance.
From Day 1 to Day 15, the SVSG Measles Outreach 140 families with a total of 66 deaths from the measles.
This is a huge coverage achieved only through the love of God planted in our people’s hearts, both here and abroad, to lend a helping hand to our families in need.
“We are humbled by it all as we continued to serve with a joyful heart, bringing forth God’s healing to the parents and children who have lost loved ones to the measles. Thank you to the Wellington Housing of New Zealand for the donation of $200.00 as well as Le Teine Polynesian Dance Group from Australia that donated $1,200.00 towards the Measles Outreach. Faafetai! Faafetai! Faafetai lava” Siliniu Lina Chang, SVSG President
The young climate activists of the Samoa Victim Support Group Junior (SVSG Junior) have utilized the youth’s monitoring and evaluation role for the SVSG Measles Outreach, to promote a healthy living and a clean environment for the affected families.
The target for the climate activists before returning to school late January, is to reach the most vulnerable families based on the needs assessment carried out bye the Measles Outreach, focusing on the families who have lost loved ones to the measles,
Initiated by one of the SVSG Junior members, the 16-year old Marion Tavai-Fruean who have been travelling with the Measles Outreach team since Day 1, Ms. Fruean saw poverty, overcrowded households and poor living conditions, as some of the common factors amongst 90% of the affected families visited by the SVSG Measles Outreach.
Close to 20 youth volunteers cleaned up the surrounding environment of families at Leififi, Sogi, Vaimoso, Pesega while at the same time, showing the young family members how to sort out waste and recycle materials rather than dumping them in the backyard. “It breaks my heart to see children living in such poor living conditions; and it makes my friends and I appreciate what we have because the children from most of the families we have reached are not as fortunate.” Ms. Fruean.
Seeing is believing, and for most of the young activists, what they have seen is the reality of the struggle faced by our families, and the damage to the environment from not disposing of waste properly.
After the hard day’s work, the youth gathered 34kg of alluminium and steel which earned them $30.00 for more cleaning materials and detergent as the clean up work continues.
“Thank you to the parents of the young climate activists for allowing your children to do their part in addressing the priority concern for our environment, while bringing a smile to the faces of the vulnerable familes affected by the measles.” Siliniu Lina Chang.
The resilience of our surviving children highlighted Day 13 of the SVSG Measles Outreach, as the Team visited 10 families from the 7 villages of Vaovai, Salani, Sataoa, Pesega, Sinamoga, Tanugamanono and Sogi.
While eight (8) children from these families have been lost to the measles; 40 more surviving children curiously greeted the Outreach Team; some with a stare, a smile, a hug while a few others looked beyond us as if they were in a daze.
This is the resilience of children; something that should be nurtured as we take stock of the mental effect of the measles on our people. The surviving children should be observed for their ability to bounce back from the trauma surrounding the loss of their siblings to the measles.
The Psychosocial support volunteers observed that while the younger children were drawn to the colorful balloons, the grown ones hesitated at first, but eventually came around to collect their pair of shoes kindly donated by missionaries Jim and Mindy Wiese from Missouri.
The grieving parents were encouraged to see things through their children’s eyes; to be more adaptable and braver.
According to Fipe Fao of Sataoa, “Despite the pain of losing our 12 year old son Foalima, all so sudden, I have to be strong for my surviving children.”
There is no doubt that Fipe’s courage is shared by all the parents who have lost children to the measles; and with time, it should help heal the pain.
SVSG’s Outreach reassured the grieving families that they are not alone. A needs assessment identified further support to be followed suit. Basic food and toiletries were provided while information on healthy living and eating from what is available around their backyard, were shared.
SVSG therefore acknowledged the support from our families and friends, whose financial and in kind assistance enabled us to reach 115 affected families who have lost 55 of their loved ones to the measles.
“Thank you to PastorLene Molia and the congregation of the Au Uso Kerisiano Ranui Church of New Zealand for donating NZD1,000 / ST1,661.00 towards the Measles Outreach. Thank you also to the Ashburton Community in Canterbury New Zealand for the fundraising BBQ and baking sale which collected NZD1,000 you have donated via the Givealittle for those affected by the measles. Sending our families Alofa from the Ashburton Community.” Siliniu Lina Chang, SVSG President
The Christmas and the New Year brought an assortment of presents for Samoa Victim Support Group (SVSG) and its work; some wrapped up in colorful wrappings, others in boxes with frills, while others come in the form of a blessed soul.
This is true for the Jesus Waymaker Group from Seattle Washington, born out of the conviction of a young man name Brandon Afoa, whose life-changing accident in 2007 left him triplegic, and led to his falling in love with worshiping Jesus, the Waymaker.
Brandon’s story is a familiar one to SVSG and its work with the victims of life’s unfortunate twist of events. An eldest child who moved from American Samoa to Seatle to support his family, an accident at work severed his spine. He was suicidal, just like the victims that come through our doors, but according to Brandon, “I serve a big God, bigger than my problem, bigger than what I’m going through.”
Therefore, having members of Brandon Afoa’s Group, the Jesus Waymaker sat down with the President of SVSG, to find out more about SVSG’s work and how the Group can help out, makes this opportunity a blessed gift for SVSG. It puts us in a perspective of God’s bigger plans for Brandon Afoa and his love of worshipping God through helping others.
“Thank you so much Brandon for sharing your love of God with SVSG. You have only heard of us, yet, you reached out wanting to know more about the work we do. We are excited of what God has planned for us through this partnership. The donation of $1,000 for the children’s Christmas treat is greatly appreciated.” Siliniu Lina Chang, SVSG President
“Thank you also to Bishop Dr. Atiumaletavai Elia Esera and Pastor Amy Tavai of the Alofa Tunoa Ministries of Amerika Samoa for putting us into contact with Brandon and his team.”
Levi and Fia Taito of Seattle Washington accompanied their parents, children and family members to a visit at the Campus of Hope, before the Group returned home over the weekend.
Known as the the Taito Family Ministries: Lend a Hand, the Group had been fundraising in Seattle towards a Resource Centre for the children at the Campus with the possibility of extending the Resource Centre to the youth in the community.
The family visit at the Campus was therefore an opportunity to share their love of music with the children of hope, and to finalize plans for the construction of the Resource Centre. It was the first visit to the Campus since it was closed off to visitors and volunteers late October as precautionary measure due to the measles outbreak.
The SVSG Junior utilized the Taito Family visit to showcase the youth’s music talent through entertaining the guests with local songs including the popular theme song for the Measles Epidemic, courtesy of Mark Su’a.
While visiting the children, the Taito Family provided them with lunch and a donation of ST3,000.00 plust miscellaneous food and toiletry supplies.
Prior to visiting the children at the Campus, the Taito Family took part in the SVSG Measles Outreach to the some of the families at Leauvaa who have lost children to the measles; offering food supplies, toiletries and comfort through the word of God.
“Thank you so much Levi & Fia, and the family for spending some time with SVSG while you were in the country; helping out with the Measles Outreach, and visiting the children at the Campus of Hope.” Siliniu Lina Chang, SVSG President
The children and grandchildren of the Pupualii Family of Vaoala represented their parents to say ‘Thank you’ to Samoa Victim Support Group, for looking after the abused children at its Campus of Hope shelter facility. According to one of the children, “we have travelled from New Zealand, Australia, America to spend time together as a Family, and our own children have been looking forward to this visit.”
The scheduled visit to the Campus formed part of the Pupualii Family Reunion 2019. However, the measles outbreak called for a detour of the visit to the SVSG office in Apia. And despite the disappointment in not being able to spend time with the children at the Campus, the young descendants of the Pupualii Family were all smiles as they marched towards the office, each bearing grocery bags for the children of hope.
What a beautiful gesture; and how marvelous it is to be part of a growing family; sharing in the love of God.
According to Lefau Pupualii, the visit and donation for the children of hope is their Family’s way of giving back to the community. “We have seen our children growing up healthy and in a safe environment, and we are blessed. As such, we wish to give back to the community through the children of hope.” “Thank you so much to the Samoa Victim Support Group for all the work you are doing not only for our children at the Campus, but also for the whole of community.”
SVSG President Siliniu Lina Chang thanked the Pupualii Family on behalf of the Group. “It is through your kindness towards our people, and your belief in our ability to help them, that is making a difference in the work we do. We want our people to love each other as family because at SVSG, we are Family.”
The Directors and the Team at The Alofa Charitable Trust of Auckland New Zealand once again have stepped up to offer Samoa Victim Support Group that much needed assistance as the Group continues with the SVSG Measles Outreach.
One of the Directors, Afioga Levaoatuamaaana Aati-Schuster relayed the wish of the Trust to lend a helping hand towards the Measles Outreach during an email to SVSG before Christmas. “Remembering you always in prayer as you reach out to our families who have lost children to the measles. Well done for all the hard work.”
Today, SVSG received ST2,000 remitted from the The Alofa Chraritable Trust and the Team of Auckland New Zealand, to support the groundwork carried out by SVSG for the families affected by the measles, especially those who have lost children to the epidemic.
Levaoatuamaaana Aati-Schuster, a former director of the SVSG (Auckland) and members of the T.A.C.T are now serving the Samoan community in Auckland under The Alofa Charitable Trust, a registered Social Service Charitable Trust in New Zealand.
T.A.C.T continues to partner with SVSG on community projects, the latest has been the support for school fees which enabled some of the child vendors under SVSG’s Hot Soup Skill Building Program for child vendors, to attend mainstream education.
“Thank you so much Levā and the team for always reaching out to support SVSG and its program for our people here in Samoa. We wish you and your families a most prosperous new year in God’s grace.” Siliniu Lina Chang, SVSG President
“It felt like I was being crushed. My stomach contracted as if someone had taken a blow to my gut. Despite grasping for breath, I didn’t want to find air. I wanted to die with my babies.” Through the tears and in between sobs, Leeann Tomasi of Vaitele told her tale of grief; of losing her two babies Puamanuvaea (1 years old) and Bension (1 day old) to the measles.
Sitting around Leeann were her 3 surviving children, who by their looks, were also in mourning.
It was a struggle, even for the counseling team that have taken the road trip over the last 12 days with the SVSG Measles Outreach, to even maintained their composure. This is because in her state of confusion, Leeann is moving through her grief; she knew exactly what her loss was; her two babies and the fact that her family will never be complete again.
Robert and Fa’aaloalo of Nuu-Fou are amongst the 3 sets of parents visited by the Outreach whose children are not buried at their place of residence, but either at the mother’s family or the father’s family.
For Blessing the 2 year old only child, she was laid to rest at the village of Siufaga Falelatai at Robert’s family.
As such, the parents are not only grieving the loss of a child, but also, living away from the visible sign of her existence, her burial place, when they moved back to Nuu-Fou in town.
The 12th day of the SVSG Measles Outreach took us deeper into our people’s pain, reaching out to reassure the grieving mothers that God’s grace will heal and mend the broken hearted.
And in standing together as a family in mourning, we saw a glimpse of hope behind the parent’s lost smile. Their surviving children are pulling them back to reality; that life goes on.
A total of 11 families comprised of close to 100 household memebers were visited during Day 12 of the Outreach. There were 6 deaths recorded from the families reached as the usual counseling support, wellbeing assistance and general hygiene information were provided. So while the grieving parents struggled to remain strong and put on a brave face when the Outreach Team reached their homes, we told them that it is okay to cry. They have a right to grieve.
“We are therefore grateful of the continuous support from our families and friends towards the Measles Outreach. Thank you Levaoatuamaaana Aati-Schuster and The Alofa Charitable Trust of Auckland New Zealand for the donation of $2,000.00; Ms. Maude Sewell NZD100.00 and Ms. Julie Tunumafono ST100.00 both of De La Salle College New Zealand.” Siliniu Lina Chang, SVSG President
While the severe cases of the measles obviously resulted in the loss of lives, the impacts on the families and communities differ. As such, the SVSG Measles Outreach considered each family on a case by case basis.
Day 11 saw the Outreach Team covering three villages of Faleasiu, Utualii and Faleatiu. The Outreach assisted a total of 18 familes comprised of 155 people of which 71 were children. Seven of these children have lost their lives from the measles including a baby from a mother 6 months into her pregnancy.
At Faleasiu, an elderly grandmother Gina Penoa took the loss of her 11 month old grand daughter really hard, resulting in her minor stroke. According to Gina, “It is one thing to suddenly lose a child, but to have her taken to her mother’s family for burial is too much for me to bear; there is not even a grave of her so it was like she was never here with us.” Toeaso Penoa, who is the father of Baby Margaret is Gina’s son, but the couple decided to take their daughter to be buried at Tamalii’s family at Afega. Tamalii is Baby Margaret’s mother. The extended family of Gina is providing that much needed support for her, not only as she grieved the loss of Baby Margaret, but also as she now needs a carer due to her health condition.
23 year old Suvania Lauesi of Faleatiu suffered the double impact of the measles; She was infected while 6 months into her pregnancy, and while she was fortunately enough to recover, she however had to undertake a caeseran delivery of her still born child who could not survive the measles.
Suvania is trying to remain stronger for her three surviving children Lauesi, Aukuso, and BJ, who are still weak from being infected with the measles. The look on the grieving mother and children’s faces tell the story of loss and fatigue from the whole situation.
For most of these families, they only have the memories of their children, taken too soon, to hold on to.
The dreams of what they might have become if they have lived to survive the wrath of this deadly virus, is nothing but a dream now.
And as we celebrate Christmas, the birth of Christ who symbolizes love, light, hope and peace, let us remain joyful and faithful for He will always sees us through.
“I wish all of SVSG Village Representatives and their families a joyous festive season. Thank you for being our proud ambassadors in village communities throughout this year, especially during the Measles Outreach.” Siliniu Lina Chang, SVSG President
“Thank you to our family of supporters that continued to come forward to assist us in reaching our people in this time of need. Thank you Aumua Ming & Tofilau Fiti Leung Wai of SSAB for the monetary donation of $300 and in kind valued at $200.00; Jim and Mindy Wiese Missionaries of Samoa for joining the door to door Outreach, sharing balloons and jandals that have brightened up the faces of the little ones during this festive season.” Siliniu Lina Chang
Wishing our families and friends, donor partners and development agencies a merry Christmas and a most prosperous new year.