Parents of Former Campus of Hope Resident Bring her Home for a Visit

0
4140

After seven years of being raised in New York and then onto New Zealand where she now lives with her American parents, a young girl who used to live at the Campus of Hope returned to Samoa for a visit.

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,” explains SVSG President Siliniu Lina Chang.

“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 adoption was not part of their plans, but when they saw their daughter, they knew it was the right path for them.

“We weren’t looking to adopt. We were just two people who used to travel around the world and then Michelle and I met her, and I told my wife that maybe this is how the story continues for us.”

Don’t miss out on the Miss Pacific Islands pageant on Friday night.

“I knew SVSG and President Lina Chang from my time at the US Embassy, and all these pieces made it easier for us to adopt, knowing the processes”.

Justin says they’re glad to come back to Samoa and show their daughter her birth place.

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

Fesootai mai loa Tapusoa poo Christabelle Ph 22772 mo nisi faamatalaga.

The nine-year-old was thrilled to reconnect with Mama Lina and said she feels Mama Lina will always be part of her family.

“When I arrived at Tuanaimato, 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.”

“It saddens my heart that they need protection to be safe, but 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.”

Justin and Michelle say their daughter is attending a primary school in New Zealand.

“She is an incredible, smart and talented child,” says her proud mom.

“She is the top reader in her class, she is an artist and has become good in fire knife dancing”.

“We try our best to let her learn the Faasamoa as it is part of her identity”.

Michelle says they did meet their daughter’s biological mother before they left Samoa after the adoption.

“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 President of SVSG, Siliniu Lina Chang says it is wonderful to see our children safe and happy.

“There have been thousands of children who have come through the Campus. This is our calling, and a rewarding one indeed.”

“I thank Justin and Michelle for raising up a fine young child, and for bringing her home for this visit,” added Siliniu.

God bless our beautiful Samoa. Faamolemole, aua le lafoina lapisi i tafatafa o tatou aualatele faapea matafaga. 📷 SGN.