Senese receives more assistance following appeal

Inclusive education non-government organisation Senese continues has received more assistance after appealing for assistance last year to keep its services running.

Senese had appealed for public donations in August last year as the impact of the COVID-19 global pandemic threatened to force the closure of its services.

However, Senese Board of Directors Chair, Ladesha Stevenson-Papalii told the Samoa Observer in response to emailed questions that the organisation has come a long way since August last year.

She said they've held a number of meetings with donor partners as well as the relevant Ministries since August and funding support is now forthcoming.

"We currently have funding provided by [Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade], [Ministry of Education Sports and Culture] and [Civil Society Support Programme], through the Australian Government and European Union to enable services and activities to resume like before and with more possibilities," she said. 

"The Australian Government has been huge donors to inclusive education and continue to commit much needed funding. However, COVID has reduced the number of students and enquiries to Senese and our current space doesn’t allow for large amounts of visitors at once."

A staff restructure of the organisation was also undertaken with the Chair revealing that they need more qualified staff. 

"It has been fortunate that some past staff members have been rehired now that we are in a position to meet their salaries/wages. But we are always looking for qualified staff to add their skills and knowledge to the organization."

They have also received NZ$659.52 in donations through MAD Pacific. 

"MAD Pacific have helped take the worry of opening a bank account overseas. It is all done through their platform and transferred to Senese’s account with the Bank of the South Pacific," she said. 

"Everything is transparent and done professionally. We are very thankful for Sally’s help in setting that up for Senese."

"But we also have had local companies and citizens make donations, such as CCK, Velda and William Caffarelli, Honey Schmidt-Solofa, Timothy Tanielu. 

"We have also had in kind sponsorship from Digicel with a communications package for Senese. Senese would not be able to operate without its donors and sponsors.

"No donation is too small or big, Senese is grateful for any assistance from the public and we continue to give thanks to all our donors who enable us to continue to serve the most vulnerable in our community."

The office of the local N.G.O. was previously located at Vaitele in a building owned by the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa, but had moved out last year.

Asked if they have any plans to move back to their previous location, she said they will not due to Senese's financial situation.

"The Board is in continuous discussions and negotiations with our project and donor partners as we try to improve Senese's financial position and meet our obligations," she added. 

"Meanwhile we are also working Senese's management and staff to mitigate any disruptions to our services and we continue to operate from our current premises which has been provided to Senese by Papalii Francis Caffarelli and Lizzie Key-Caffarelli without charge. 

"This has really helped out the organization and has been a blessing. However we are awaiting possible funding of a building to be established on Senese's own land situated at Vaitele not far from the current premises."

She added that Senese offers unique services to the whole community such as assessment for autism spectrum disorder, free hearing screening and provision of hearing aids for children, free hearing screening campaigns in schools in Upolu and Savaii.

"Senese is at the forefront for promoting and implementing Inclusive Education. Should Senese cease operations it would adversely impact the quality of life for children with disabilities and their families in Samoa," she said. 

"Not only would you be increasing the burden on our national school system as well as vulnerable families who are already exposed to the challenges of intensive and demanding life-long care of children with disabilities.

"But as a country we would be walking backwards from any progress made so far in pushing for a more inclusive society and creating environments where they can survive and thrive.

"Senese is on the right track and there are big plans for its future that will benefit Samoa as a whole. 

"Senese's management and staff and the board are committed to ensuring its success to continue to especially support the children of Samoa and our special needs community who often are forgotten and left behind. 

"Senese is committed to satisfactorily meeting its financial obligations and re-establishing relationships with all who have assisted Senese over the years. 

"Senese has been through some rough times but the staff of Senese have continued to work through difficult times for the sake of the children who need Senese’s services."

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