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Adoptions at Samoa's S.V.S.G. shelter raise eyebrows

An Australian volunteer, Dr. Micaela Elphick, has questioned the Samoa Victim Support Group’s (S.V.S.G) involvement in the adoption of children.Dr. Elphick, who spent time at the shelter where babies who could be adopted are being kept, has also questioned the condition of care at the shelter.Before Dr. Elphick’s time at the shelter, she said she spoke with another volunteer who had been working there.She “had expressed how upset she was at the conditions at the shelter (and) said that several times, they had run out of food and that the babies were being fed tea when they didn’t have formula,” Dr. Elphick said.“This would go on for 24 hours. She said there were no nappies frequently and she wanted to get medical attention for the babies and it wasn’t happening.“And when we went there, that is exactly what was happening.”Speaking to the Samoa Observer, Dr. Elphick said she has come forward because she felt it was her “moral responsibility” to raise the issue.“It is so frustrating and yet the are flaunting all these great things that they do,” she said. “Look I am sure there probably are some great people involved doing grass roots stuff at Victims Support.“But there are also some major problems.”Dr. Elphick said that when she first went to the shelter, she was told that she and the other volunteers had to meet the S.V.S.G. President, Lina Chang about the problems.“When we went to see her, she said that we had to understand that the shelter was not an official project so it didn’t have funding allocated to it in a standard way and therefore resources were very limited,” Dr. Elphick said.“She stressed that quite heavily. I am not sure whether part of that was because I know that one of the other volunteers had been trying to contact her via email to complain about the conditions the babies were being kept in.”Asked for a comment, Mrs. Chang denied ever having met Dr. Elphick. In rejecting the allegations, she also said she did not talk to volunteers.“There is a person that is a volunteer person that looks after them,” Mrs. Chang told the Samoa Observer. “Some volunteers go out, but I don’t see them as that is not my job.”Last week, Mrs. Chang asked the Samoa Observer to give S.V.S.G time to respond to the allegations. She promised an official response by yesterday.Her response to questions sent to her is published on the front page.According to Dr. Elphick, the women who work at the shelter say that part of the reason they can’t get nappies and food on time is because Mrs. Chang controls every step of what happens.“And she won’t or can’t be available to sign cheques when they are needed,” she said.“So she says they will ask for supplies but then they have to wait until the cheques are signed by Lina.”Dr. Elphick said the first thing she noticed when she got there was that the shelter was constantly out of supplies.“I have actually got a text on my phone from yesterday (day in January 2014) from one of the workers there asking if I can buy formula because she hasn’t got enough to feed the babies,” she said. “And this is common.”Dr. Elphick showed the Samoa Observer the text message. It reads: “Micaela pls its me nani..sorry to bother you guys but can you tell micaela that I really need milk formula, milk in the box because I don’t have enough for the babies.”Dr. Elphick said the children get fed three times a day.