On a sunny Tuesday morning, 26thof February 2019, I was introduced to the S.V.S.G. office and my new co-workers. I could feel the warmth of the atmosphere in S.V.S.G by the many smiles I received during my tour around the office. The first impression of the S.V.S.G. has since proven to be just that – warmth, caring, welcoming, which I think reflects the impressions people get when they come into its office whether it is for advocacy programmes, victims of abuse or just in need of help or guidance.
I flew in from the winter landscape of Denmark leaving my husband to take care of our two teenagers, our house and the dog. I had managed to get a two months break from my work as a counsellor dealing especially with people who suffers from suicidal behavior and thoughts which not only affects them but have a huge impact on their families and friends. My personal goal was to get another perspective on how life is on the other side of the world compared to my own and set an example for especially my children to inspire them to do good in the world.
Little did I know how much I was to be moved, inspired, taught and blessed by the people I have met during my two months working as a volunteer in Samoa, through the Projects Abroad program.
One of the first projects I was involved in was the Nofotane Women’s Project, which provided the women skills to help their families with income and at the same time raise their status within the families. It was done with full respect to the cultural aspect of the Nofotane Woman and did not try to erase this Samoan cultural institution.
The Advocacy Programme was another involvment – especially for the women offenders of violence referred from the Family Court. It is a very unique form of partnership with the courts that I haven’t seen anywhere else in the world. Eventhough I unfortunately do not speak Samoan, the sweet Facilitators of the programme do, and they invited me to share my views on the different topics they covered during the programme – helping with translating my contributions and vice versa. After the participants finish their programme S.V.S.G. prepares a Final Report for the Court and represented the participants during the Court’s final sentencing; often with a positive result. It was another eye opening experience for me, accompanying S.V.S.G staff to the Courts on some of these occassions.
On a daily basis, I worked closely with the SVSG Cases Division which also showed me that not all is as beautiful. The cases that we handled are very different and covered situations like assistance with referral letters to the Maintenance Division at the Courts, helping people in need of medical devices, dealing with the overwhelming financial burdens of funerals and marriages, counselling between families or couples and listening to the heartbreaking stories of sexual abuse, incest, suicide and domestic violence. We have an efficient and close working relationship with the Police and help people to speak up and address their cases to the right authorities.
I am so grateful to be part of such a strong voice for the Samoan people through the work of S.V.S.G. Thank you so much for letting me be part of this family – even if it was only for a limited time! I will return to Denmark so much wiser not only of the circumstances of the Samoan people, but also feeling so enriched. [Iben Lauridsen, Qualified Psychotherapist,Denmark]