As she kissed her Gold Medal yesterday at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia, SUGA Feagaiga Stowers reflects on a life that was anything but.
Years ago the teenage survivor, who has claimed the second Gold Medal for Samoa at the games, arrived at the Samoa Victim Support Shelters shy, scared and bruised. Feagaiga was a victim of domestic violence.
Today Ms Stowers now beams proudly. “I was rescued and now I know there is hope,” she says.
With the help of Samoa Victim Support’s rehabilitation programs at the Campus of Hope, home to Feagaiga for the last five years, it was there where she would start her road to recovery.
Unbeknown to the program’s co-ordinators and her SVSG family, did the organisation realise that they were actually nurturing a champion.
At the Campus of Hope, Feagaiga was not into singing, dancing, sewing or cooking like the other kids were – but instead she found her love in weighlifting where she was able to release her anger and fustrations.
SVSG’s partnership with the Samoa Weightlifting Federation in 2015 meant that some of their female survivors of violence pursued weightlifting under the guidance of President Tuaopepe Jerry Wallwork, as part of their rehabilitation program.
When news of Feagaiga’s Gold Medal win last night reached SVSG, the only organisation in Samoa who shelter child victims of sexual and domestic abuse, SVSG staff and survivors were humbled and emotional.
From the 2015 Commonwealth Youth Games in Apia to the 2016 Oceania Weightlifing Championship in Fiji to the Oceania Training Camp in New Caledonia, Feagaiga’s story of rehabilitation culiminates with the Gold Medal at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
“We are so proud of her,” says SVSG President Siliniu Lina Chang. “SVSG’s vision is to ensure that victims of crime and those in need are well supported to be safe and in control of restoring their lives. Feagaiga’s journey attests to the caring nature of SVSG’s work for our children, and our aspiration for them to be successful. From victims to survivors, each child’s transformation is a success story.
“Feagaiga is now a champion in her own right and a true survivor living life to the fullest outside of the Campus of Hope.”