On Friday, the Executive and the staff of the Samoa Victim Support Group swapped their normal yellow uniform for pink, in support of the Samoa Cancer Society Pinktober Awareness. The support initiative will continue every Fridays for the month of October.
Dressed up in different shades of pink, the staff went about their normal duties to support victims of family violence, while supporting a sister NGO with its own community awareness to fight cancer in Samoa. Thank you to the Family Court Judge for being in tune with the change in uniform of its Court Support Officer presenting cases to court while supporting the Pinktober awareness.
And while SVSG’s work and that of the Samoa Cancer Society differs, their work share the same objective and that is to support and to help the people of Samoa, because cancer, like violence, does not discriminate. It can happen to any of our loved ones; from our children to our fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers.
“On behalf of the Chair of the SVSG Board, we wish the Samoa Cancer Society a successful awareness to fight cancer in Samoa.” Siliniu Lina Chang, SVSG President
Samoa Victim Support Group was today awarded the Samoa Public Service Innovation & Excellence Team Award for ‘Most Effective Collaborative Partnership’, during the celebration of the Public Service Day.
The award was in recognition of SVSG’s work with the Courts, nominated by the Ministry of Justice and Courts Administration. SVSG President Siliniu Lina Chang accepted the award on behalf of the Group.
SVSG’s work with the Court dates back 12 years ago when the Group was just set up. This was specifically in supporting children survivors of sexual abuse standing trial against their own family members. This support for victims of sexual abuse continues to date, and is one of the focused area for SVSG’s support services, as highlighted by the children’s shelter facilities, the Campus of Hope.
With the setting up of the Family and Youth Courts in 2013, SVSG’s work with the Ministry of Justice extended to include rehabilitation programs for the offenders of violence through SVSG’s Advocacy Program, offering anger management, alcohol abuse and other counseling support.
Support services for the victims and the offenders continued to be self-funded by SVSG through donations.
The Innovation and Excellence Team Award received today is therefore an achievement for the Group, as it struggles to source out secured funding for its Advocacy Program for the Courts.
In receiving the award today, SVSG President Siliniu Lina Chang acknowledges the support from the Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Justice and Courts Administration, Papalii John Taimalelagi Afelé as highlighted by the Ministry’s nomination of SVSG for the award.
“Thank you so much Papalii and staff for recognizing the Ministry’s partnership with SVSG as effective and collaborative in achieving justice. SVSG will continue being the voice of the voiceless and we look forward to continue working in partnership with the Ministry.” Siliniu Lina Chang, SVSG President
More than two thousand (2,000) women from the Apia East Vicariate of the Catholic Church, made up of more than 20 villages starting from Vailele up to Mulivai Safata, gathered at the Mulivai Safata Cathedral on Friday evening to celebrate the Feast Day of the Lady of Sorrow.
During this church gathering, Samoa Victim Support Group was invited to present on our work. It was an honor and a privilege, as we joined this massive group of women, as they sang and processed from Tafitoala to the Mulivai Safata Cathedral.
Even before SVSG presented to the women, we learnt of their faith and their perseverance. We could not tell from the crowd how many of them are survivors of family violence, but one thing was for sure, these women are champions in their own rights.
SVSG took our message that we are here to support, to help, to care and to be family to our community in need. Raising awareness on our work is a passion whenever we talked about it and we shared this with the mothers gathering. Sharing on family violence and how it affects not just the mothers but the family as a whole, really hit home.
When we left the mothers gathering late Friday evening, we were grateful of the opportunity to further the awareness on family violence with this massive group of women. “Thank you so much to the Chair of the Women’s Fellowship of the Apia East Vicariate, Mrs. Flo Wendt for inviting Samoa Victim Support Group to present to the mothers gathering, and to share on our work on family violence. We hope the awareness will help a family currently experiencing violence one way or another.” Siliniu Lina Chang, SVSG President
On Friday morning, the SVSG President gave a eulogy during the funeral service of a 50 year old mother. She was one of the many victims of domestic violence, with her horrific death highlighting the hole, long existed in the formal support system for victims, despite the degree of the violent acts that we now see in our society today.
Speaking there on the work that we did for her and the many abused mothers, on how we stand up for the voiceless and being family to them. The wish of wanting to do more beyond the means that we have, and wishing that the system to protect the abused, could have saved her. This is SVSG taking its work to heart.
Sadly, it has to take another life for the lessons to be learnt. Because in giving the eulogy we kind of understand the anger expressed by the family as none of the mother’s children were in sight. And this was the last thing she asked for, and continued to live for, when she sought SVSG’s assistance in applying for a Protection Order through the Courts. The absence of her children even to bid her farewell was the sad reality.
And this has been one of the many challenges that SVSG has been dealing with in our role to be the voice of the voiceless. Fighting for the survivors of violence for justice is still a battle, and even in their death, we have to continue to be their voice, for their families and their children. This is the caring nature of our work.
For the deceased mother, none of us understood the load she was carrying or what was in her mind. Because for 8 months, she has been carrying a burden of an abused mother separated from her children. Her anger and hatred were the only ways she could express her feelings; something she could not express in her own words.
A life could have been saved; and the lives of this mother’s children will never be the same again.
On Friday evening, SVSG received this message “I thank God for all of you who work hard and tirelessly for the voiceless and the forgotten.” Thank you for words of encouragement, we needed this, but for the sake of the victims of violence, their families and their children, we desperately need help because one life lost, is one life too many.
As a family, let us pray for the children’s wellbeing, who up until now, do not know that their mother has died. May she rest in peace.
The youth group of the Samoa Victim Support Group, the SVSG (Junior) is coordinating an extension to the classroom project for the School of Hope, with funding support from similar youths from Queensland Australia.
Students from the Helensvale State High School of Queensland Australia have been wanting to build an extra classroom for the School of Hope since after Cyclone Evan in 2012.
The aim is to have a separate classroom for the children’s skill building training such as home economics and other livelihood skills. Since the idea was formed, the Helensvale students started fundraising for this project. Five years now, the project is finally coming to life with a group of 20 students and teachers arriving this weekend to start work on the project.
The students who have initiated this project are now in Universities, however, the current students will represent the Helensvale State High School to this important partnership project with the SVSG (Juniors). The project represents a partnership between youths from different countries who share the passion to help and to make a difference in the lives of others.
The contractors are none other than the Rotary Club of Surfers Sunrise in Queensland Australia, the same contractors that donated and built the House of Hope, the first shelter on Campus back in 2012.
The group of students and teachers, together with the Rotary Club of Surfers Sunrise will be assembling the classroom within 10 days, with the SVSG (Juniors) coordinating all the local support required to complete the project.
The Helensvale School Project is one of the many projects the SVSG (Junior) have been coordinating this year.
There is no other way for the children survivors of violence and sexual abuse cared for at the Campus of Hope shelter facilities, other than upward and forward.
This message came out louder and clearer during the Church of Christ Embassy American Samoa visit at the Campus over the weekend.
Lead by Pastor Sione and Divine Amosa, the group of close to 20 parents, children and youth witnessed for the first time, God’s favor in saving the lives of the children cared for at the Campus.
The fellowship and the sharing was a blessed experience not only for the visitors but more so for the children, who were encouraged by Pastor Larry during his sermon that despite the trials they each have gone through, they should never lose hope for God is alive. As such, they should always look upwards and move forward.
The merciful love of God was evidence by the love shown during the visit, as the visiting Church prayed for, cried with and hugged the children. According to SVSG President Silliniu Lina Chang, who hosted the visiting Church, “it is humbling to know that God’s love has brought the children through this Campus, and likewise, the visitors who are willing to help.”
“On behalf of the Chair of the SVSG Board, Mrs. Georgina Lui, thank you so much Pastor Sione and Divine Amosa for spending time with the children and for your contribution towards their daily caring through monetary donations.” Siliniu Lina Chang.
It is always a pleasure when a youth group visits the Campus. This time, the Guide Team with their leader Mr Sa Leota and teachers, Oloa Lipine and Herenessa Kirisome, spent time with the children.
They shared Christian songs and bible stories with the young ones. Amazing , how the visiting team interacted with our children in the campus.
Thank you Team,
Thank you for your valuable time to fellowship with our children.
One of the positive outcomes of the SVSG global meeting over the week was the establishment of a new partnership, to support the education of underprivileged children under SVSG’s welfare assistance.
SVSG’s support work is geared towards empowerment and education as sustainable solutions, to the many social problems facing our people. As such, the new partnership is highly appreciative at this stage of our work.
‘The Alofa Charitable Trust’ of New Zealand (TACT) is part of the SVSG (Auckland) sub-group. The Trust saw how SVSG struggled to reach out to the underprivileged children and helped them realized their dreams to be well educated. As such, they are now on board as a new partner, with a focus on supporting the education of secondary to college level students.
It was during the global family’s community visit to the nofotane women of the Aleipata constituency over the weekend that the first beneficiaries of the Trust were identified. The two older children of an unemployed nofotane woman from this area will be financially supported for 1 whole year through school fees, uniforms and other requirements for their schooling.
It is amazing how a partnership approach makes the support work of SVSG effective, enabling the organization to extend its reach to those in need.
According to the Chair of the SVSG Board, Mrs. Georgina Lui, “Here we are seeing the partnership approach discussed during our global meeting, already helping 2 underprivileged children with their education. I therefore acknowledge with gratitude and appreciation the commitment from the SVSG (Auckland) Director, Levaoaanamatumua Schuster and the Team, to support our work here in Samoa.”
“May I also take this opportunity to congratulate the SVSG global family, for once again coming together as One Family with One Heart, to be the ‘voice of the voiceless’. Let us continue to stay strong as a family to help our community in need.” Georgina Lui, Chair of the Board
Justice Vui Clarence Nelson had challenged the Samoa Victim Support Group and its global family, to take up two more hard problems, as a way forward for SVSG’s work. The challenge was laid down during Justice Vui’s sharing with the Group on the last day of its global meeting.
Sitting there amongst the SVSG global family, not as a Judge, but as an Advisor of the Group, Justice Vui reminisces about the humble beginnings of SVSG 15 years ago; how one woman’s idea to set up an organisation to help victims, sounded crazy to him at the time, but it has taught him a very valuable lesson: “that you dare to dream the impossible, and you can make it happen. And I am full of admiration today for Lina and the Team for the work that you do.”
SVSG started because of a young lawyer’s vision, a dream, turned into reality by another woman’s conviction to change the world, “not the whole world, but our part of the world,” according to Justice Vui.
With the two hard problems in which the Judge had challenged SVSG to take forward, he admitted that they are impossible dreams. However, Justice Vui is certain that SVSG can deliver, “It’s an impossible dream, but this is living proof of how an impossible can be made to happen. It’s your President and this Team.” It is beliefs such as Justice Vui’s that once again raises the bar on the work of SVSG and its global family.
And as leaders in this fast changing world of ours, the challenge as laid down by the Judge, is yet another test of our faith as a family, and as a the ‘Voice of the Voiceless’. There are too many victims of crimes and of hardships amongst us which warrants an urgent need to be vigilant and to be proactive in our approaches.
SVSG working with offenders of violence and their families through anger management programs, have assisted the Family Court in taking a holistic approach to addressing family violence. Looking after the victims at the Campus of Hope shelter facilities, while advocating for their cases through to court, is another. The economic empowerment of women through livelihood training is the latest approach by SVSG to be practical about its ‘Voice of the Voiceless’ role. And we have seen positive outcomes enabling SVSG and its global family to continue living the impossible dream, alluded to by Justice Vui.
“SVSG is always been something close to my heart. I sit around now and look at all of you, and I feel amazing.” Justice Vui Clarence Nelson
The second and the last day of the gathering of the SVSG family saw once again the coming together of like minds, committed to the cause, to be the voice of the voiceless.
As each sub-group presented on their work, what came out clearer is the unity among the SVSG family.
And to end this year’s global gathering, SVSG Advisor Justice Vui Clarence Nelson encouraged the SVSG family to stay stronger for the vulnerable and the abused whose voices need to be heard.
“A special thanks to the Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Justice & Courts Administration, Papalii John Taimalelagi Afele for taking time out to join the global family gathering.” Georgina Lui, Chair of the Board
President of SVSG Samoa