News Story

Offering Hope to Young Victims of Abuse in Samoa

A welcome sign greets abuse victims as they enter the House of Hope Campus, a place of refuge and safety in Apia, Samoa, 2023.2023 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

The happy chatter of 100 plus children playing and laughing together attest that their community home in Apia, Samoa is aptly named “The House of Hope.” These children have not always lived in such comfortable or pleasant environments as they are all survivors of violence and abuse and have been removed from dangerous circumstances to be brought to this place of safety and love. 

Lina Chang is the driving force behind protecting these beautiful children and giving them back their childhoods. She saw a need and stepped up 18 years ago to offer a lifeline to kids who needed to be sheltered. She began helping one child at a time until the House of Hope has now grown into a village that can accommodate and meet the needs of about 110 children. There is also a house on the premises for women who are fleeing domestic violence. 

Lina Chang meets with visitors in the Fale, or assembly area, of the House of Hope Campus. Apia, Samoa, 2023.2023 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and other organisations have partnered to help Lina Chang along the way.

She said, “From the beginning, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints came forward. The Church believed in helping the children. Back when no one was talking about it and nobody wanted to know that it was happening, the Church believed me and helped.” 

Monthly operating costs at the House of Hope are supplemented by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “Often the Church will bring us extra food and cover some of our immediate needs. They even came and helped us to start a veggie garden to ensure that our children have healthy food to eat,” Chang said. 

In addition, a van was recently donated by the Church to help Chang, the volunteers, and House of Hope staff take kids to medical appointments and to court appearances.

“The Van will be so helpful. We have needed a way to transport the children, and this will make all the difference,” Chang said, gratefully.

A new playground on the compound is a hive of activity during free time. The children playing are all smiles and laughter. The equipment was recently donated by Pacific Assist Charities. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints partnered with the charity to pay the costs to ship it from New Zealand.

The House of Hope, the sole provider in Samoa for abused women and children, had humble beginnings in a deteriorating home that had only one bathroom. Now it is a campus with a school and different houses and dorms to shelter the children who need protection and shelter. Most of the growth has been funded by a myriad of caring donors who support the incredible work that Lina Chang is doing to protect victims.

The children are removed from abusive situations by court order and placed at the House of Hope. As more and more children have come to be sheltered, Lina Chang has had to find ways to adapt and expand to care for these young victims of abuse, incest and neglect. 

For example, when she started, Chang’s thoughts were only to protect the children. It didn’t occur to her at the first that she would become their advocate in court. 

Chang also found that she would need a way to educate them on site. When it became apparent that keeping the kids on the premises at all times was ideal, Chang found a way to add a school with two full time teachers and some volunteers to assist. Children are now able to catch up educationally while at the House of Hope. 

Other services have been established as needs have arisen. The children are now regularly checked by counselors and are taught marketable skills. As the House of Hope has grown, Chang has had to navigate such things as hiring a cook and building an ample kitchen, hiring a manager and dorm parents, building a nursery and staffing it to care for babies born to incest victims while in residence, and just the day-to-day care for so many.

The House of Hope has established a helpline for kids at risk to call and reach out for help. “We get about ten calls a week from kids in crisis situations,” Chang noted. All these efforts are intended to bless and protect innocent victims.

Lina Chang has carried a heavy burden as she has fought for better lives for abused children. She and others from the House of Hope are often the only ones sitting by the side of the youngsters as they bravely face their abusers in court.

“We help them tell their stories in court,” she said. 

Chang's love extends far after the children leave her care. She attends their weddings, helps them to find scholarships to improve their futures and remains as a mentor in their lives. 

The children are able to play, laugh, learn and hope again in the care of Lina Chang and her team. Apia, Samoa, 2023.2023 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

All the while, Chang and those at the House of Hope have to find ways to keep it funded. She is grateful for the support received from those who care, such as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Pacific Assist and the many others who have stepped forward.  

Still, Lina Chang worries. She admitted, “At times this is a lonely road. At times I have to cry and then I just get on with the work. I love these kids and I love seeing the change in them when they are brought here. They learn to smile again. God is looking after me and is ensuring that His children are okay.”

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