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. They fulfill God’s purpose for the growth of His Kingdom here on earth. 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. Who to blame and what causes these catastrophies are not ours to ask.
As a child protection agency, SVSG is more concerned with how can we save another child from being abandoned?; how else we can help the mothers in such situations?
Samoa Victim Support Group is appealing to all our mothers in these situations to please, know that help is just a phone call away. The 24 hour free help line number is 800-7874 and it is confidential. Having the courage to reach out for help will not only save yourself, but most importantly, that gift of a child.
Earlier this year, we were greeted one morning by a bundle of joy being left outside our office door. We never asked who of what. 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.
The SVSG President Siliniu Lina Chang is therefore calling on our mothers that “before you made a decision to take a life into your own hands, know that you are not alone. At SVSG, 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.
"On behalf of us as parents, we ask for your forgiveness as our children, as God's gift to our families, to our homes. For we have not lived up to God's purpose in our lives, to love and to care for you. And because you are here, we are all in this together." Fijian Prayer Warrior.
This was the appeal from a prayer warrior representing the Deborah Ministries International when they visited the children at the Campus of Hope.
The appeal highlighted an important shift away from the silent acceptance of gender based violence; which has been apparent in Samoa and the Pacific region in the past; towards a more responsible community taking ownership of its actions towards the children.
The Deborah Ministries visited the children of Hope as prayer warriors, yet, the children's ministering left them in awe of God's love as seen from the smiles on the children’s faces. It was as if the roles were reversed and the children were encouraging the adults to be strong, and in turn, the adults asked for the children’s forgiveness.
The visiting Deborah Ministriescomprised of prayer warriors from New Zealand, Fiji and American Samoa. Accompanying the Debra Ministry was one of SVSG's Church Response Team Leader Pastor Sale Uelese of the Assembly of God Satapuala who reminded the children that "the love of God through Jesus Christ is above all." As such, He has a better plan for the children of hope, despite the ugliness of their past.
"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." Jeremiah 29:11
Before the 4-member team of the SVSG (Junior) departs for Sri Lanka in the coming week, the youths sought an audience with the Group’s Advisor, Justice Vui Clarence Nelson.
Mr. Franziska Finafinau, Ms. Petronilla Molio’o, Ms. Christine Tiupita and Mr. Mane Su’a will represent SVSG to the fourth component of the “Breaking the Cycle: Men and Boys Engage Project to End Violence Against Women”, hosted by the Foundation for Innovative Social Development in Sri Lanka, 3 – 11 September 2019.
The meeting with Justice Vui Clarence Nelson at his office is a rare opportunity for the youths and they were inspired. Because according to Justice Vui, “you all have to fully utilize this opportunity to learn new strategies to engage men and boys to break the cycle of violence; and that when you return, the knowledge and learnings will help with the epidemic that family violence is now causing our community.” Such words of wisdom, spoken by His Honor to the travelling youth, will challenge the team as they set out for the Training of Trainers program in Sri Lanka.
The ERASMUS+ project ‘Breaking the Cycle: Engaging men and boys for promoting gender equality and ending violence against women’is implemented by organizations from six countries with extensive experience in the field including:Center for Health and Social Justice (CHSJ) India, Centro Rural Joven Vids (CERUJIVI), Spain, Emancipator, Netherlands, Foundation for Innovative Social Development (FISD), Sri Lanka, Samoa Victim Support Group (SVSG), Samoa and Youth First, Madagascar.
So while Franziska and Mane continues on from the New Delhi Seminar in March and the Netherlands Study Tour in May, Petronilla and Christine will be on their first trip for the Breaking the Cycle project. The young women are very excited.
And we are glad that these youths feel excited about taking on the responsibility to change social norms on masculinity, and to break the cycle of violence by engaging men and boys in the conversation. It is all about building our youths to be accountable to their responsibilities, when one day, they will become leaders of our families and communities.
The men and boys under the various support programs run by Samoa Victim Support Group are walking the talk, that engaging men and boys to end violence against women and girls is possible. And it starts with us.
Leading the changes are none other than the SVSG Junior members who have represented SVSG in the 6-nation project with Spain, India, Sri Lanka, Madagascar, Netherlands and Samoa titled:“Breaking the Cycle: Men and Boys Engage to End Violence Against Women.”
The young men have been helping out at the Campus of Hope during the weekends, cooking for the children while teaching them the basics on food preparation.
The roles might be reversed as the matrons got to rest while the young men cooked for the children, but the important message Franziska and Mane wanted to put out there is that, gender role stereotype is a social norm that can be changed.
At the office, the parents of a troubled young man could not believe the changes in their son who was referred from the Courts to serve his community hours with SVSG. He has become a handy man in the office; sweeping, mopping and washing dishes. Who said that only women and girls can do these household chores? The young man has developed skills from the odd carpentry work he helped out with the office and kept him out of trouble.
And at the Men’s Advocacy Program for offenders of violence referred from the Family Court to undertake anger management programs with SVSG, the young and old joined the conversation on engaging men and boys to end violence against women. The Program had provided a safe space for the men to share on what they have done wrong and what they could have done better. “It all starts with us”, was their bold admission.
The men are now taking on an advocacy role by continuing the conversation in their homes and village communities.
So come the 3rdto 13thSeptember at the Men Engage Train the Trainer session in Sri Lanka, Franziska and Mane will be proud to present on the progress made by the men and boys under SVSG’s program towards the project “Breaking the Cycle: Men and Boys Engage to End Violence Against Women.”
Because according to the Chair of the SVSG Board Mrs. Georgina Lui, “we are not only changing behavior, but we are also changing social norms affecting violence against women, girls and children in Samoa.”
Despite the string of tragic incidents and what not during the past couple of weeks in the heart of Polynesia that we call home, an email received by Samoa Victim Support Group today from Perpignan France, reaffirmed our belief that there is still hope in humanity.
The email was from Tevita Mailau, a rugby union player who plays for Stade Montois, (a French rugby union team), and Tonga internationally. The email reads: “Talofa guys. Attached are photos from the fiafia night of performances, auction winners, programs etc and our Afrikan friends who donated cupcakes and lamningtons that spelt “SVSG”.”
Here is a non-governmental organization in the Pacific, yet, we have some of rugby greats in the likes of Jerome Kaino, Sekope Kepu, Fereti Tuilagi, Joe Tekori, Isaia Toeava, Filo Paulo to name a few, who came together to support a fundraising event organized by Tevita & Rose Mailau for SVSG.
Back in April this year, Tevita wrote to SVSG relaying his family’s wish to lend a helping hand for the people of Samoa through SVSG. “My name is Tevita, currently living in Perpignan, France. My wife Rose who runs and organises events here, has been interested in your organisation for some time now. She is wanting to run a fundraising event here in France to donate to SVSG within a few months time.”
And the fundraising was a success, raising EUR2000 now sent over to SVSG. Some of the rugby greats playing professional in the northern hemisphere donated rugby jerseys which were auctioned off during the fundraising event. From the photos shared by Tevita & Rose Mailau, it was truly a family event, where we can see our diverse island culture through entertainment being showcased, all in the name of humanity.
Because out of love for the children survivors of gender based violence at the Campus of Hope, and all the beneficiaries of SVSG’s work here in Samoa, the Pacific family in Perpignan France came together as one, illustrating humanity at its best.
The Chair of the SVSG Board, Mrs. Georgina Lui acknowledged the importance of this event to the work of SVSG. “Thank you so much Tevita & Rose Mailau for showing us that you care. You have gathered families and friends from the Pacific and together, you reminded us that, we are one family; with love from Perpignan France.”
As our country comes to term with the devastating news day after day over the last few weeks, Samoa Victim Support Group is appealing to our people that “help is just a phone call away.” This is through SVSG’s Helpline number 800-7874 which is free and works 24 hours.
As a support service organization, SVSG’s could not help but feel for the families of those involved in these incidences. At the same time, we are challenged to step up on our community awareness programs to inform and to educate our people of the relevant support services available whenever in need of help.
From two people found dead in a car, to an identified dead baby boy found floating on the sea, and more recently, a father of 6 murdered on Fathers Day; we cannot believe that all of these catastrophies are happening in our peaceful Samoa.
Which is why as a community, we each have a part to play.
From SVSG’s corner, we have a network of supporters within reach through the SVSG village representatives around Samoa. The church leaders whom we have been working with are there to provide immediate support. We have the free Help Line number 800-7874 which gives you access to support 24/7, or if you wish to remain anonymous, you can just call us on the Help Line to relate a situation requiring assistance and we will take it from there.
Because regardless of the circumstances surrounding these devastating occurrences around us, it is SVSG’s experience that the effect of anger not only on the perpetrator, the survivor but also on the innocent children, always end up in horror.
We pray for comfort to the children and families of those who have been affected by the incidents of the past weeks. May God’s peace and grace be upon the people of Samoa.
For immediate support, please call the 800-7874 Help Line.
It is FREE and it is a 24-hour service.
As part of the Manu Samoa team’s preparation for the upcoming 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan in September, the boys in blue sought the children’s blessings during their visit at the Campus of Hope today. The Campus is a temporary refuge for children survivors of gender based violence under the care of Samoa Victim Support Group.
For a Team that trained at the High Performance Unit (HPU) across the road from the Campus, it was the first time that most of them have set foot inside the Campus of Hope. “We see you running around, we hear you singing while we carry out our training, yet, the atmosphere when we stepped inside the Campus is nothing but a blessing.” Alapati Leiua.
The children were excited to see their national heroes in person once again following the Team’s visit last year. They were touched by the sincerity of the Manu Samoa’s encouragement that “they are loved and that despite their past, there is always hope.”
To the children’s delight, the Team performed the Siva Samoa before presenting them with rugby balls for their sporting activities.
Tafatoa Sam Fruean represented SVSG in acknowledging the visit by the Manu Samoa to seek the children’s blessings for their Rugby World Cup campaign. “Know that you have a strong team of supporters as the children of hope cheered you on from the safety of the Campus.” Tafatoa Sam Fruean
The Bank of the South Pacific has done it again. Today at the Campus of Hope at Tuanaimato, the B.S.P General Manager Taitu’uga Maryann Lameko-Vaai handed over an extension to the kitchen facility project to the Chair of the SVSG Board, Georgina Lui. The Management Team from the B.S.P accompanied the the General Manager to witness this event.
“Every year we try to identify what we can contribute to the Samoa Victim Support especially to our Campus here at Tuanaimato. Two years ago, we came and build a kitchen to assist with the works of Samoa Victim. This year we came to revisit to see how else we can support the Campus further. So this morning, we are very happy to be in a position to provide the much needed extension to the kitchen”, said Taitu’uga.
The project included putting a roof over the rear side of the building which provides the much needed shelter for the extended kitchen area and building cupboards for the children’s cutleries. With the unusual rain days lately, the project is very welcoming. The project cost ST10,000 . The Marketing & Sales Team donated food and other supplies which were also presented today.
“On behalf of the B.S.P, I’m very proud to hand over this Project to the Chair of the SVSG Board, Georgina Lui. We hope that this extension will continue to provide support to the activities of SVSG. We pray for God’s blessings on the children and all the residence of the Campus of Hope,” said Taituuga.
Mrs. Georgina Lui acknowledged the continuous support from the B.S.P. “On behalf of Siliniu Lina Chang, the SVSG President and the children of hope, thank you Taitu’uga Maryann Lameko-Vaai and your wonderful team at B.S.P for providing the funds for this project,” said Georgina.
Part of SVSG’s mandate is to provide shelter for the abused children; some children are sheltered longer than the others. As such, operating a shelter for the children is not an easy task, but with the support from the community as per the B.S.P’s community projects, SVSG’s work is made easier. According to Georgina, “it is our responsibility to make sure that while the children are under SVSG’s care, they are cared for properly and in a safe environment.”
Eleven children residence of the Campus of Hope shelter facility are today reaping the harvest of their hard work, ending 8 weeks of training in organic farming.
Coordinated by the Samoa Culture Centre at Falelauniu, the Program promotes organic farming as a livelihood skill, as a healthy lifestyle and as a form of climate change mitigation and adaptaion. However, for the 11 participants from the Campus of Hope, the program is much more than that as it is part of their healing process from the crisis situations affecting their young lives.
Despite the training being carried out at the Samoa Culture Centre, the children of hope practiced their skills at their own vegetable plot on Campus. They have learnt the importance of properly preparing and caring for the soil in order for the plants to grow well. There were both the practical and the theoretical aspects to the training.
For SVSG, the process of nurturing, of caring and of seeing a plant grow to its harvest stage is similar to the rehabilitation process undertaken by these children survivors of gender based violence while on Campus. And such is the reason why it was more rewarding to see the smiles on their faces while harvesting their crops today.
The Chair of the SVSG Board, Mrs. Georgina Lui therefore acknowledges the working in partnership with the Director of the Samoa Culture Centre, Maulolo Tavita and the Coordinator of the Program, Aliimuamua Tulili Aiese, on the organic farming training.
“What we have seen is the different talents God has gifted each and everyone of us with as we look at the graduates of the organic farming program today. Our children have definitely reaped what they have sown, and we are very proud of them.” Georgina Lui
The Chair of the SVSG Board, Mrs. Georgina Lui was at the Campus of Hope to welcome members of The Alofa Charitable Trust (T.A.C.T) from New Zealand during their visit today.
There were two parts to the visit; firstly was to see the children at the Campus and to present a donation of $1,000 with ice cream for the children. Secondly, was to meet for the first time the three child vendors now returned to school following the SVSG’s Buddy-up Program with child vendors earlier this year. T.A.C.T has been sponsoring school fees and uniforms for these three children since Term 1 to date.
The visiting T.A.C.T was led by Levaoatuamaaana Aati-Schuster, a former director of the SVSG (Auckland) now serving the Samoan community in Auckland as a registered Social Service Charitable Trust in New Zealand.
Speaking on behalf of SVSG, Georgina Lui commended the T.A.C.T for continuing to support the work of SVSG. “I know that you have renamed yourself to the Alofa Charitable Trust but its really good to know that you still have the heart of SVSG with you, and you still want to affiliate with us, and so we are very grateful for that.”
For some members of the T.A.C.T, the visit was their first time at the Campus of Hope and they were amazed by the love of God emanating from just being there.
T.A.C.T will now return to New Zealand knowing that their Group had contributed in putting back to school three of the hundreds of children working on the streets as child vendors. It is all about loving our people.