Recognising creative talent in the Pacific Island diaspora

‘Just a Statistic’ January 25, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — pacificdocs @ 8:50 pm

‘Just a Statistic’

by Malaeauga Tiliaia

NOTE: Malaeauga Tiliaia is the winner of the Journalists for Diversity essay competition in Utah. Malaeuga will be a senior at West Jordan High School this coming fall.

Most people would probably consider me just another statistic. They may see me as nothing more than a 16-year-old homeless orphan being passed from one member of her family to another until they, too, grew tired of caring for her. I might have believed that I was nothing more than that myself, at least until the circumstances of my life changed dramatically in the past two months. My nightmares of yesterday are starting to slowly and quietly fade into the past. Those yesterdays when I was alone and afraid, trapped by poverty and abuse. It seemed as if angry voices would swirl around me like a cold, thick fog until I just wanted to fade away into a sea of hopelessness. I had nowhere to run, nowhere to escape and nowhere to call a home of my own. I had an empty heart, empty stomach, and, too often, an empty soul.

In school I would usually fall under the radar until I got into some type of trouble. No one seemed to notice how tired I was in class – tired from sleeping on benches in Burger King because I was afraid to go home at night. Failure was all that was expected of me. I had also been in minor scrapes with the law, enough to acquaint me with community service and a full paycheck going to fines.

I was born in American Samoa to a mother who was no older than I am myself. My father is listed as “not recognized” on the faded copy of my birth certificate. I was raised by my grandmother until she passed away a few years ago at the age of 47 from cancer. My mother, who also had health problems that no one would ever explain because I was so young, died of a seizure during the night no more than a year before my grandmother. I remember my grandmother working at night cleaning buildings to try to support us but drinking, playing cards and bingo took up much of the money she earned. After she died, I was sure I would never be happy again and I set out to prove it. More by default than desire, my cousin and his wife took me into their home in Orem.

Looking back, I now realize how angry I was because my mom and grandma had died. I began to miss more and more school and find ways to sneak out of their house whenever possible. It was then that things started going from bad to worse. After an encounter with the police and a brief stay in foster care, I was sent to live with another relative in the Salt Lake area. She kept me out of school to help baby-sit for almost a full quarter and I got a ticket for trying to go to school when I was not enrolled. I figure that will be a story to share with my kids someday – how their mother got sent to the Detention Center for trying to go to school. I always wondered why no one seemed to care when I would show up at school with marks on my face from being beaten. Hair pulling and slapping were part of a daily routine. Finally I ran away and when I came back I was told I was no longer welcome.

For a time, I lived off and on with any family member or their friends who would take me in for a short time. I remember one time being left in a home and having nothing to eat but a sandwich once a day. I would cry every night out of hunger and fear and dream of a home to someday call my own. There are still more blanks to fill in that bring me to today. No heat, no furniture, working to have my check taken away from me each payday by another relative, no food, no car, then homelessness and despair. It seemed that my life was in ruins. That is until I ended up on a porch of some strangers.

It seemed that a ray of hope began rising within me like the morning sun behind clouds. They offered me a life I had only hoped for where I could someday finish school, go to college and lead a normal life. Every room I entered was full of love, laughter and caring. Before this time I had never truly felt protection, shelter, safety or peace. For the first time in years I could sleep. At last I had a heart full of happiness, a stomach full of food, and a soul full of gratitude. Now I’m much more than just another statistic of failure. I am an individual of worth who overcame the odds and found a better life. I have a home, a family, and a future . . . at last.

Content sourced from Pacific EYE.

Journalists for Diversity essay contest

She wrote about losing her mother and later her grandmother, sleeping on benches at Burger King; and being sent to a deten-
tion center for trying to go to school.
For her work, Malaeauga Tiiiaia, a West Jordan High School student/received first place in Utah Journalists for Diversity’s “Tell
Us Your Story Essay Contest.”
Malaeauga, who will be a senior in the fall, won a $1,000 grant to help her pay for college-related expenses. She was one of nearly
100 students statewide who entered the contest.


Aftermath – The Story of the Pacific Tsunami

Filed under: Uncategorized — pacificdocs @ 2:22 pm

On September 29, 2009, the largest earthquake in 2009 at a magnitude of 9.1 hits the Samoan Islands. 22 minutes later the first of 6 tsunamis hits Western Samoa. The 20 ft’ tsunami ploughs through the southern shores, destroying anything in its path. In some areas the wave traveled as far as 2 km inland.
194 people lost their lives and 3000 are now displaced.

This Multimedia / Photo essay was shot & edited by The Light Search – Documentary Photography.

Aftermath – The Story of the Pacific Tsunami from Thelightsearch on Vimeo.


Tonga gets women’s crisis center for abuse victims November 18, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — pacificdocs @ 10:08 am

New Tonga NGO aims to step up choices for Women and Children escaping violence.

The commencement this week of a new Women and Children Crisis Centre (WCCC) for Tonga is good news for the Kingdom and comes at a time of year when global activism against violence against women steps up the pace for 16-days. But if the faces and the work of the Tonga Crisis Centre team look familiar, it’s because they are.

Crisis Centre Coordinator ‘Ofa-ki-Levuka Guttenbeil-Likiliki with 16 of the 17 staff of the Tonga National Centre for Women and Children (TNCWC) walked out on the 30 October on their previous jobs, tired of long-running grievances with the governing Advisory Board, which says Guttenbeil-Likiliki, “it just meant that we could not be independent from government and ensure our full autonomy as an NGO – and we so we couldn’t give fully and effectively of ourselves to the people we work with. It was not a sudden walkout and was a last ditch method after unsuccessful methods of engaging was exhausted. But we did it, and we wish the Tonga National Centre for Women and Children (TNCWC) well in their future activities.

Stepping out of paid NGO activism and into the less certain realm of volunteer work was not a decision the newly established WCCC team took lightly.

“Our members have families to support and bills to pay like everyone else, but they have insisted to continue our services and support – even if it means voluntary work –so that women and children know someone out there cares about their welfare when they are suffering any form of violence at the hands of those they love and trust, if its domestic violence, rape, sexual assault and harassment or any form of child abuse – we are here for them. This was our first step after leaving the TNCWC – affirming amongst ourselves our wish to remain together and give this work another shot,” says Guttenbeil-Likiliki. “So if you are a donor out there who can appreciate our situation, we would love to hear from you!” she laughs.

The WCCC was registered last week with the Ministry of Labour, Commerce and Industries, while moving into the new offices with makeshift and donated furniture. The WCCC is operating as a Collective, the Staff Collective, Management Collective and the Reference Group Collective.

Under the Management Collective there are three (3) Trustees who will ensure that the centre operates in accordance with sound legal and financial practices.

Guttenbeil-Likiliki says, “we have a real sense of excitement and purpose, and the staff are feeling the pinch in their pockets of being volunteers, but they don’t dwell on it. We just want to do the best job possible with what we have, for families affected by violence. We’re happy to collaborate with NGO’s and relevant government departments whose work in Tonga supports work around *Ending Violence Against Women and Children.*

The moving-on energy has meant the week started with a full plate. The Women and Children Crisis Centre (WCCC) hosted a one day regional meeting on Monday 09 November of the Pacific Network Against Violence Against Women Reference Group. “We had five heads from Pacific centres, networks and organizations working towards the elimination of violence against women and children to talk over the development of a new training / communication handbook on Male Advocacy, so we’ve hit the ground running, so to speak.

A formal public launch of the WCCC will be held along with an open-day on December 03 as part of the 16-days of activism campaign, says Guttenbeil-Likiliki. “But, for this week it’s been great having the support and encouragement the Pacific Network, especially the Chair of the network and Coordinator of the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre, Ms. Shamima Ali who herself has given and proven best practice leadership to the FWCCC for 25 years.”

“Domestic Violence, rape, sexual assault / harassment and all forms of child abuse is still largely un-reported in Tonga, and part of the work of the WCCC is to raise awareness of these issues and encourage more women and children to come out and speak out against these types of violences and more importantly for the community to understand and know that violence against women and children is a crime” says Guttenbeil-Likiliki.

The WCCC staff will continue carrying out the work it did previously but now we will be able to intensify our advocacy role with greater freedom and autonomy.

The new staff collective of the WCCC are Vika ‘Akauola, Kilisitina Pifeleti, Leti Siliva, Susana ‘Uhatafe, Latai Peauafi, Lu’isa Samani, ‘Asela Sauaki, Sela Sausini Tu’ipulotu, Foketi Kavapele, ‘Usaia Hemaloto, Sione ‘Akauola, Mapakiefa Finau, Ma’ake Manu, Leeanne Torpey, Sr. Anuncia Fifita and ‘Ofakilevuka Guttenbeil-Likiliki.

The new WCCC head office is located in Fanga ‘O Pilolevu directly behind the Free Weslyan Church off Taufa’ahau Road. The Mo’ui Ke Fiefia Shelter is a private location with 24 hour, seven day security. The 24 telephone counseling line is 22 240. Along with the counseling and care support, team members of the WCCC staff collective will be focusing on community education, advocacy and research and lobbying for positive policy and legislative change, women’s empowerment and male advocacy.

Article sourced from

You can listen to the Radio Australia interview here.