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Former Campus of Hope Resident Returns to Visit

APIA, SAMOA – 02 FEBRUARY 2023: After seven years of being raised up in New York and onto New Zealand where she is now living with her American parents, the former Campus of Hope resident returns home to visit.

She was just a toddler when she came under the care of the Samoa Victim Support Group (SVSG) due to some serious family matters and her home was no longer safe for her to stay. As a child protection organization, SVSG took the child under its shelter care program.

During that time, the Office of the US Embassy in Samoa usually visited the children survivors of violence, and one of the officers, Justin Kimmons Gilbert and his wife met the toddler. The couple grew very fond of her and started the process of identifying her biological parents for their consent to an adoption.

In an interview with the family, Justin Kimmons Gilbert said that adoption was not part of their plans.

“We weren’t looking to adopt. We were just two people who used to travel around the world and then Michelle met ‘this toddler’ and I met her, then I told my wife that maybe this is how the story continues. We knew SVSG and President Lina Chang from my time at the US Embassy, and all these pieces made it easier for us to do adoption knowing the processes.”

So after they adopted the child, the parents of the now nine year old, came back to Samoa just to show their daughter her birth place.

returning svsg resident2
returning svsg resident2

The nine year old former resident with her parents at the Campus of Hope.

“We felt in our hearts that it is best to let our daughter know about her roots, therefore we told her that she was at the Campus of Hope looking for a family, while we were looking for a family too, and so we decided to take her with us to the United States.”- Justin Kimmons Gilbert.

The nine-year-old former Campus of Hope resident stated that she was delighted to reconnect to Mama Lina, and she felt so special to be greeted by the smiling faces of the children at the Campus.

“When I arrived at Tuana’imato, I felt so special when the children were singing and dancing as they walked towards the gate to welcome me and my parents to their home,” she said.

“Even though it saddens my heart that they needed protection to be safe, I know that with the strength they have in their hearts, they can get through it. I am very thankful for all the love that Mama Lina has given me and the time she spent caring for me. She will always feel like part of my family.”

he young child is attending a Primary school in New Zealand and her mother Michelle described her as an incredible, smart and a talented child.  She is the top reader in her class, she is an artist and has become good in fire knife dancing. The parents are trying their best to let their child learn the Faasamoa as it is part of her identity.

According to Michelle, “We have met our daughter’s biological mother before we took her with us. It was important to me and my husband that we get to meet them if they were open to that, and for them to know that we have a lot of love for them because they made a really hard decision which, gives us the opportunity to build the family that we now have.”

“As the President of SVSG and a Mama to thousands more children like beautiful grown child, seeing our children safe and happy is our calling, and a rewarding one indeed. I therefore thank Justin and Michelle for raising up a fine young child, and for bringing her home for this visit,” said SVSG’s Siliniu Lina Chang.