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
The SVSG (Junior), the youth sub-group of Samoa Victim Support Group continues to lead by example, as it rolls out its community program, based on the identified need for support from youth in village communities.
In schools, the SVSG (Junior) has been carrying out anti-bullying awareness campaigns to address violence between schools, the latest was at theWesley College at Faleula.
In church youth groups, the SVSG (Junior) members have been busy with its literacy programs for the youths in villages, the first being at Faleasiu, now finding a home at the Faleasiu Assembly of God hall.
On Saturday, the SVSG (Junior) Executive visited Faleasiu to work on its pilot project, which includes a library area for the young children of Faleasiu.
For one of the SVSG (Junior) Executive member and the Queen’s Young Leaders Award winner for 2017, Ms. Petronilla Molioo Mataeliga, reaching out to empower youth in the villages is the SVSG (Junior’s) active role in changing lives, one youth group at a time.
And being one of the final ever Queen’s Young Leaders Award winners, Ms. Mataeliga’s work with youth and children of Faleasiu, through the SVSG (Junior) aims to improve and to help children to receive a quality education. Come June, when Ms. Mataeliga will receive her Award from Her Majesty The Queen at a special ceremony at Buckingham Palace in London, she will have the Faleasiu Library Project to add to her and the SVSG (Junior) changing lives community projects.
Fundraising events such as Zumba and Walkathon being carried out over the months will assist with SVSG (Junior) in putting up book shelves at the closed off area at the AOG Faleasiu Hall, allocated for the children’s library. Once the infrastructure is completed, the SVSG (Junior) members will be rostered during Saturdays to read to the children as per its literacy program.
In line with the SVSG (Junior) vision, youth empowerment and eduation are the key to success. Together, we can make a difference.
A grown up man was spotted climbing our fence and stood by the back door of our House of Blessings, by the Police. Our team with the Police continued the search.
Trees and plants were cut down, lives of our children come first.
Our children are okay, the intruder was not found.
We continue our prayers for the safety of our children, our workers and our country.
While the Nofotane Project progresses into the final year of implementation, Samoa Victim Support Group has come to appreciate an effective measure of the true value of a ‘woman’s economic empowerment’.
This was highlighted during the 24th livelihood training session at the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa at Nuu Fou, hosted by Reverend Letaulau & Tina Pesaleli. Rather than the almost exclusive focus on econometrics, that is, measuring the economic empowerment of a woman by her bank account and her ability to earn money, we also looked at her mental state of empowerment. This is where her self-esteem, her support network and her sense of fulfillment come in.
At Nuu Fou, close to 100 participants included children, youth, church ministers and their wives, and of course, the nofotane women. The extension of the livelihood training coverage provided that much needed support network necessary for an empowered nofotane woman to progress to the next stage of producing a product and earning from it, boosting her self esteem and bringing with it a sense of fulfillment.
Seeing young children while on school holidays, learning a skill or two, while others supported their mothers in mastering a skill, is that extension of the Nofotane project covereage at this stage.
The church ministers and their wives from the neighbouring villages of Aele Fou and Vaitele uta eagerly learned commercial cooking such as donuts and pork buns, so that they could teach the unemployed youth of their congregations.
At the end of the Nuu Fou session, there were 16 registrations for small business initiatives inclusive of Nuu Fou Sunday School and Nuu Fou Youth Group.
Ms. Coralie Allen, owner of The Kindest Cut salon in Sydney Australia for over 14 years, is in a mission in Samoa at the Campus of Hope, home to children surivovors of violence and sexual abuse. This is Coralie’s second time at the Campus, offering free haircuts for the children survivors thereby Changing Lives One Haircut, One Conversation, One Prayer at a time. In January, Coralie visited with a friend and she vowed to return, and she did.
It was obvious as Coralie cut each child’s hair that she had her heart in her hands. The physical touch, the big hugs, the silent tears. Her action speaks of love, making the children feel loved.
Assisting Coralie wass her brother Robbie and a good friend Uso.With scissors and clippers, the trio worked through half the children on the first day, with the rest to be attended to later in the week.
And that is not all. Coralie has also got the support of her church in Sydney, the Faith City Canterbury, friends and supporters, to fundraise and to donate towards food and other supplies to assist with the children’s daily needs.
Changing Lives One Haircut, One Conversation, One Prayer at a time is Coralie Allen’s mission and according to her, “this is my second time at the Campus and I will keep coming back.”
SVSG President Siliniu Lina Chang was at the Campus to witness Coralie’s labour of love. “Thank you so much Coralie, your church, family and friends who got behind you in support of your mission in Samoa. Thank you also for supporting the nofotane women by buying the Nofotane Products. Keep on reaching out to the vulnerable members of the community and share God’s love.”
It has been 6 years now since 2012 when Wyong Christian Community School from New South Wales Australia has entered into a parternship with the Samoa Victim Support Group (SVSG), to best love and support the children. The children are none other than the young survivors of violence and sexual abused under the care of SVSG, interacting with a representative of students attending the Wyong Christian School.
It has been a partnership based on mutual understanding, as both the Wyong and the SVSG share a strong foundation based on Christian values and beliefs, ingrained in the respective work of the two organisations.
For this year, Mr. Liney has brought a different group of students to fellowship with the children at the Campus of Hope. According to Mr. Liney, “we have been praying for this trip and the Campus of Hope since planning for it last year.” And the love of God has been shining bright during the Wyong’s visit this year. From the children’s outing at the Liua le Vai o Sina at Faleaseela hosted by Olsen & Jane Vaafusuaga, to their participation during the SVSG Junior walkathon, to their visit at the Campus of Hope, it has been a partnership of love by the children, for the children.
Culminating the visit at the Campus of Hope was a tour at the Skill Building Centre for child vendors located on campus and built with funding from the Wyong Christian Community School. It has been a Centre borne of the gifts from the students of Wyong, which will now see uneducated, underprivileged children being empowered with a skill for their livelihood.
According to SVSG President Siliniu Lina Chang, “there is always a genuine interest to reach out and to do more everytime Principal Ian and the students visited SVSG.” She went on to acknowledge the partnership of love for the children, established with the Wyong Christian Community School. “Thank you so much Ian, the teachers, the parents and the students of Wyong for continuing to share the gift of love with the children under the care of SVSG.”
The village leaders of Lufilufi are amongst the majority of supporters from the village communities towards the economic empowerment of nofotane women, as the 23rd session of livelihood training reached the Anoamaa East constituency. This was evidence not only by their presence throughout training session, but also through the village leaders who registered to become SVSG village representatives.
The commitment from the village leaders of Lufilufi inspired the 100 nofotane women who attended the livelihood training to learn, to be empowered and to value their purpose.
From trash such as coffee mix sachets and packet of twisties, they mastered the art of creating colorful handbags.
These new creations are becoming a fashion, and have been picked up by local designers to compliment their fashion line wear.
We have the colorful ribbons woven into a lei for men and women, for any occasion. The talents, the enthusiastic and the commitment showed by the nofotane women of Lufulufi to look at their value, their strength and their purpose as, were rewards on their own.
Then we have Niuali Tupai, an unemployed nofotane woman that learned commercial cooking from the livelihood training.
Today, Niuali is a self-employed nofotane woman, earning $100 a day, from selling pork buns at the school canteen, at the bingo games, at village meetings etc. When we visited Niuali, she proudly showed us her products with a confident smile of an empowered woman.
According to Niuali, the livelihood training, the self-esteem module and the support from village leaders, enabled her to realize how valuable she is. “I am a valuable woman. My strength is in my hands. As a nofotane, I have a unique purpose in my family.” It is success stories such as that shared by Niuali Tupai of Lufilufi that highlight the achievement of the project goal in which SVSG and the UN Women FGE have anticipated for the Nofotane Project.
“Thank you so much to the village leaders of Lufilufi for supporting the economic empowerment of nofotane women. We look forward to seeing more families from the village benefiting from the self-employed nofotane women. 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, but to see an increased in the women’s participation in domestic and community matters.” Siliniu Lina Chang, SVSG President.
She came to us shy and hopeless. According to our teenage girl survivor at the time, “I was rescured and now I know there is hope.”
When the news of Samoa’s Commonwelath Golden girl Feagaiga reached us last night, we were humbled by the extent of her determination to rise up, by her resilience to see hope in her talent, by her successful reintegration.
Fegaiga has come a long way from a shy and hopeless survivor to a champion that she is today. And this is the practicality of the rehabilitation programs at the Campus of Hope, home to Feagaiga for the last five years where she was nurtured to recovery.
At the Campus of Hope, Feagaiga was not into singing, dancing, sewing or cooking, but through weightlifiting, she found a way to release her anger and her sense of hopelessness.
Under a partnership with the Samoa Weightlifign Federation in 2015, some of our girl survivors of violence took up weightlifiting as part of their rehabilitation program, included in them was Feagaiga. Thank you Tuaopepe Jerry Wallwork, President of the SWF for your commitment to develop the talents of the girls in weightligting.
From the 2015 Commonwealth Youth Games in Apia to the 2016 Oceania Weightlifing Championship in Fiji to the Oceania Training Camp in New Caledonia, Feagaiga’s story of rehabilitation culiminates with the Gold Medal at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
With confidence and determinatioin, the once shy teenage girl is now a Champion in her own right; a survivor living life to the fullest outside of the Campus of Hope.
“Congratulations and best wishes Feagaiga. We are so proud of you.” Siliniu Lina Chang, SVSG President
The nofotane women from Laulii, Leusoalii, Luatuanuu, Solosolo and Eva have joined the Samoa Victim Support Group and the UN Women Fund for Gender Equality efforts, to address women’s economic disadvantage through their economic empowerment. The training was centred at the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa Hall, Luatuanuu and attended by more than 100 women.
On this 22nd session of livelihood trainings of the Nofotane Project, there was a noted gradual change in community attitudes and behavior towards the economic empowerment of nofotane women. This was evidence by the support from village and church leaders who attended the training sessions just to offer support towards the women. For the husbands, they happily tended to the reversed roles of taking care of the children, attended to their food and things at home while the women attended the training.
This is the kind of support from both women and men, necessary to break down stereotypes and gender roles responsiblilities in the home, employment and community.
While handicraft, elei printing and commercial cooking were the most popular skills selected by the nofotane to be trained on, the highlight of the 22nd session was the youth groups, who were more interested in flower arrangements. This was because the trainer is a member of the SVSG (Junior) volunteer and a transgender, who represented this third gender well, in the economic empowerment of women. And SVSG encourages the involvement of the community to address gender equality without discrimination as we were blessed to have Daisy Toloa, our floral arrangement expert, being part of the training team
It was during the demonstration of the self-esteem module, the SHINE program emphasizing value, purpose and worth that provided a fitting ending to the livelihood session at Luatuanuu. The women were encouraged, as the program appealed to their self-esteem, necessary for them to rise up as valuable women that they are in our families and communities. As empowered women, positive changes are in store for these women, their families and communities.
“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