New Counseling Centre to Empower Lautoka Communities

The Jet Newspaper, March 10, 2014

 

Caption:  The Acting High Commissioner for Australia His Excellency Glenn Miles and  Empower Pacific’s Board Chairman Vishnu Deo during the launch of Empower Pacific’s new counselling centre . Photo: SUPPLIED

Communities in the Western Division will have better access to counselling services with the opening of the Australian-funded Empower Pacific Counselling Centre at Lautoka Hospital on Friday 7 March.

 “This centre will enable the provision of appropriate and confidential counselling services to poor, marginalised and vulnerable target populations,” Acting Australian High Commissioner Mr Glenn Miles told guests at the opening.

 The new centre will offer specialist counselling and consulting services, as well as counsellor  training.  Facilities  include  counselling  rooms,  a  modernized  training centre, and reception and staff areas. Services will target women, children, sex workers, youths, inmates, people with disabilities, people living with HIV and other vulnerable groups.

 The $150,000 centre was funded through a partnership between civil society organisation Empower Pacific and the Australian Government’s Fiji Community Development Program (FCDP).

 “Since 2005 Empower Pacific had been using a makeshift facility that was not conducive for our services. We are grateful to the Australian Government for their timely support and much needed assistance, which will greatly benefit the people of Fiji,” said Empower Pacific CEO, Patrick Morgam.

 The  Australian  Government  has  supported  Empower  Pacific  since  2010,  most recently through its civil society program FCDP with a total investment of $355,000.

 Mr Miles said that “civil society organisations are key partners in delivering [Australia’s] aid program, playing a vital role in improving the lives and livelihoods of the poor.”

 FCDP Team Leader Michael Brownjohn wished Empower Pacific and the Lautoka Hospital well in their partnership, emphasizing the importance of services the counseling centre will provide for pregnant women attending the Antenatal Clinic.

 “Empower Pacific provides a unique service in Fiji which is vital for the psycho – social well-being of many Fiji citizens. None of us should underestimate the importance  of counselling,  especially  confidential counseling  and  supporting  the needs of pregnant women,” Mr Brownjohn  said.

According to Mr Miles, partnerships with CSOs like Empower Pacific are crucial for enhancing  the  wellbeing  of  communities  in  Fiji,  particularly  the  vulnerable  and socially excluded.

 “To the management and staff of the Ministry of Health and Empower Pacific, I hope the facilities being opened today will not only equip you with the resources to carry out your work more effectively, but will provide you with an increased motivation and passion to carry on your important work,” Mr Miles said.

Sugar City blood drive

Shayal Devi, Monday, May 05, 2014, The Fiji Times

Lautoka business community reps promote the blood drive scheduled for May 24. Picture: SHAYAL DEVI

THE Lautoka business community is organising a blood donor day on May 24.

Organising spokesman Richard Shafiq said the general idea was to deliver services directly to the people.

"There is nowhere busier in Lautoka than the Sugar City Mall and markets on a Saturday," he said.

"When you give blood, you give someone life. We want as many people as possible to spare half an hour of their time and give blood."

He said the idea of a blood drive had the support of prominent businesses and organisations in Lautoka, including the Lautoka Chamber of Commerce, Empower Pacific, Remington and Inglewood Realtors.

"Lautoka Hospital has also confirmed that staff members will be available for the day. Lautoka City Council was also quick to give permission to use the mall and erect banners promoting the day."

 

Act now

Editorial Comment, Saturday January 25, 2014, The Fiji Times

YES, teenage pregnancy can be prevented (FT 23/01). I fully support the work done by the Lautoka-based NGO Empower Pacific for its counselling efforts regarding this challenge. Indeed the most important thing is for parents to generate a lot more awareness in the home.

I mean let's take away the taboo mentality that we have and tackle this problem.

Of course feelings are a human nature but it is only through awareness that our teenagers can control themselves.

Parents can focus on decision-making and the advantages of taking thoughtful actions in life.

We need to help them to see the reality in such situations.

This is not the time to beat around the bush but instead let's tackle this problem head on.

Focus on life issues such as teenage pregnancy and the preventative measures. It is better to nip the problem in the bud.

Dealing later with young people whose pride had been shattered is a lot more painful and demanding.

Parents, the time to act is NOW!

Joeli Naleca

Suva

Community outreach

Shayal Devi, Tuesday, April 29, 2014, The Fiji Times

FOR non-government organisation Empower Pacific, extension of services across the country is a way to ensure the best counselling and social services reaches people from all walks of life.

After the opening of the nation's newest counselling centre in Lautoka, the NGO has now started a series of community outreach programs on Viti Levu and Vanua Levu.

"Our outreach programs aim to both inform and aid communities in dealing with issues of mental health, child protection or family violence," said CEO Patrick Morgam.

"We can also provide individual counselling where there is a need for personal support.

"Our services are fully professional and completely confidential."

According to Mr Morgam, the new Lautoka counselling centre funded by Australian Aid resulted in improvements in the services on offer.

"We now have room for group as well as individual counselling sessions."

Regrettable decisions

Shayal Devi, Thursday, January 23, 2014, The Fiji Times

MANY teenagers wish they had waited before engaging in sexual relations with their partners.

This is what counsellors have found when treating young people, says Empower Pacific CEO Patrick Morgam.

"This is not necessarily until they were married but until they had gotten to know their partner better," he said.

"There are all kinds of contraceptives that can help prevent against pregnancy and lessen the risk of STIs but while contraceptives are there to help protect your body, they can't protect your feelings and that's a huge part of what can change when you have sex with someone."

Mr Morgam said teenagers should know that it was OK not to have sex if they were not ready.

"If someone is forcing you to have sex, this is a criminal offence and can be reported to the police.

"Speak out to your parents, teachers, caregivers or a counsellor if someone is trying to pressure or force you to have sex with them."

He said communication between children and parents was vital in ensuring that young people were aware of the consequences of engaging in sexual activities at an early age.

"As a parent, you might feel weird talking about it for a range of reasons — like the fear of what questions they might ask or worry that the discussion will put ideas in their head."

300 for youth workshop

Repeka Nasiko, Monday, March 31, 2014, The Fiji Times

ABOUT 300 youths and potential business owners turned up for a one-day workshop that encouraged participants to start their own income-earning enterprises in Lautoka on Saturday.

The workshop focused on providing business ideas for young graduates and potential entrepreneurs in the West.

Organised by the Lautoka Chamber of Commerce and Industry — in conjunction with the National Centre for Small and Micro Enterprise Development, Fiji National University and Empower Pacific — the "Start Your Own Business" workshop was applauded by chief guest Commissioner Western Commander Joeli Cawaki.

Cdr Cawaki said the small and micro enterprise sector was vital to nation-building.

"The small business sector is an important economic growth contributor and has helped provide employment and income for countless number of people," he said adding that the workshop was a good way for young entrepreneurs to be able to set up their own small and micro enterprises.

Less tolerance of violence

Shayal Devi, Wednesday, March 12, 2014, The Fiji Times

THE Fijian community is becoming less tolerant of all forms of violence.

According to Empower Pacific media and communications advisor Mark Vitlin, people now realise that domestic violence has a big impact on children, extended families and neighbours as well.

"School attendance and results suffer, the level of care in the home goes down and other family and community members worry about or have to look after the people affected," he said.

"Empower Pacific is also pleased that men are realising that their actions are having a very bad effect on their family.

"Many men now come forward to seek counselling on ways that they can change their behaviour.

"This means they will better treat their family and be respected in their community."

Mr Vitlin said some women were still reluctant to report domestic violence issues.

"These women fear they will be punished by their partner.

"Other reasons include fear of being judged or believing violence is normal, believing the violence is justified and so on."

Mr Vitlin said the organisation experienced increased numbers of clients in all geographical areas.

He also said the organisation commended the efforts of the Ministry of Women in launching the violence-free community campaign.

Ministry sets up child helpline

Shayal Devi, Saturday, January 04, 2014, The Fiji Times

THREE hundred and twelve child welfare cases were recorded in the National Child Welfare Register last year.

And these cases comprised teenage pregnancies, child neglect, child abuse — physical and emotional— and child abandonment.

And according to permanent secretary for Women Social Welfare and Poverty Alleviation Dr Josefa Koroivueta, there were many referrals from the Health Ministry and NGOs about child welfare.

"The ministry is working on a new child helpline which is in progress," Dr Koroivueta said.

"It will become a focal access point for all children in Fiji to seek counselling, advice, services and report cases on abuse.

"Apart from addressing the challenges reported by the children, the child helpline will also provide an access point for concerned adults, parents, guardians and citizens to access the helpline to report abuse and request for information on child related matters."

Dr Koroivueta also said the Ministry would capitalise on the existing service agreements with Empower Pacific, NGO counselling services and other government ministries like the police and Education Ministry to ensure management of all cases.

"The ministry advises that during this school holidays, parents need to be vigilant about the whereabouts of their children.

"Especially when sending the children to any relatives place for holidays, parents need to be ensured about the safety and wellbeing of their children."

NGO Empower Pacific has also been doing its part in helping children.

CEO Patrick Morgam said 114 children and their families had received counselling and social work support from Empower Pacific last year, with predominant referral issues from alternative sources including cases that were domestic-violence related, about sexual or physical harm and neglect.

"We need stricter laws when it comes to children's wellbeing and parents need to be more patient when dealing with children and take lessons on anger management so as to reduce excessive reactions when angry," he said.

The public can seek the assistance of the Child Welfare Unit if they require and can contact 3315585 or 3315754.

People seek help

Shayal Devi, Tuesday, March 11, 2014, The Fiji Times

ISSUES that led people to seek counselling has broadened significantly and more people are now coming forward to receive help.

Empower Pacific's media and communications advisor Mark Vitlin said the new Empower Pacific counselling centre at Lautoka Hospital would fulfil a number of functions, primarily on individual and family counselling for a range of issues.

"Through experience we have realised that there is more to just focusing on HIV and STI counselling, and pregnant mothers present a range of issues that need to be addressed," he said.

"Even for many, this is their only opportunity to share their issues with a counsellor.

"The new facility will provide an opportunity to holistically deal with issues presented by mothers that range from domestic violence, child abuse, and many other issues that could be detrimental to mother and the unborn child."

Mr Vitlin said another area of concern were the children and how they coped with emotional distress.

"They need to know there are people who can support and assist them with any problem they may have.

"Often the problems are serious and beyond the expertise of teachers or other adults in their lives.

"In these situations, it is important that school children have access to counsellors. This does not necessarily mean that all schools must have one on site but it does mean that schools and children know how to contact counsellors if necessary."

Access to private rooms

Shayal Devi, Saturday, March 15, 2014, The Fiji Times

PATIENTS in need of counselling at Lautoka Hospital will have access to private and proper rooms after the building of an Australian Aid-funded $150,000 counselling centre.

Empower Pacific board chairman Vishnu Deo said because of the lack of space, staff had to counsel clients in the linen or storerooms when privacy was particularly needed.

Mr Deo said Empower Pacific, formerly known as Pacific Counselling, has been providing specialised counselling services in various sub-divisional and divisional facilities of the Health Ministry.

"In 2008, the services were formalised under a memorandum of understanding," he said.

"Previously the counselling services were delivered from a portion of the waiting area with makeshift cubicles. This, combined with overcrowding was not conducive for providing counselling services.

"The construction of this new facility has made it a problem of our past and it is equipped with four rooms, inclusive of a family or group counselling room, training room, staff room and matron's office and convenience facilities."

Mr Deo said they were grateful for the Australian Government help.

Acting Australian High Commissioner Glenn Miles said civil society organisations were key partners in delivering their aid programs, playing a vital role in improving the lives and livelihoods of the poor.

"But what these organisations have told us is that the lack of transportation, communication and infrastructure make it difficult to deliver services to the communities that they serve," he said.

"We see this challenge as particularly urgent with such organisations working outside the Suva area, with communities in remote, often inaccessible areas.

Rural credit scheme

Shayal Devi, Friday, May 02, 2014, The Fiji Times

EMPOWER Pacific has started a rural credit scheme for families of people in the sugar industry, says CEO Patrick Morgam.

"Often, it is a partner establishing a second business or the worker trialling new crops," he said.

"Anything that is likely to work can be considered. This program is funded by the European Union and this provides loans to people with workable ideas on supplementing their income."

Mr Morgam said the non-government organisation also helped prisoners near the end of their sentence identify new businesses or careers.

"The aim is to help find a reliable income and steer away from a return to crime. An important but fortunately little used service is the help Empower Pacific provides in the event of a disaster.

"Counsellors are trained and ready to provide psychosocial support to individuals and communities following the aftermath of any natural disaster."

Skills for parents

Salaseini Moceiwai, Friday, April 11, 2014, The Fiji Times

ABOUT 35 adults on Taveuni will now have a better understanding of nurturing their children well after attending a three-day parenting course.

The course at the LDS Hall in Naqara was facilitated by the Empower Pacific in conjunction with the Australian Volunteers International Child Protection.

Taveuni Empowerment of Women Support Group chairwoman Volau Yavalanavanua said the course was a success as the feedback was positive.

"The skills that we have learnt are very practical and it encourages both parents and children to respect each other," she said.

"We learnt how important it is for us as parents to be very clear in the way we give instructions to children and to notice the positive things they do and give praise freely.

"It is also crucial for us to be good listeners and be patient when we help to counsel our children with their concerns," said Ms Yavalanavanua

Course facilitator Lavinia Dakai said parenting was an important job because it helped in children's growth.

The topics included positive parenting, respectful relationships, conflict resolution, stress management and self-care, basic communication, counselling and art therapy.

NGO concerned with people living on streets

Shayal Devi, Friday, January 24, 2014, The Fiji Times

A LARGE percentage of people living on the streets have suffered trauma at some point in their lives.

This, according to NGO Empower Pacific's clinical adviser, Sarah Young.

"The trauma can be a result of childhood abuse, domestic violence or family breakdown. Additionally, many would have had personal battles with drug and alcohol addiction or unstable mental health," Ms Young said.

She said counselling could be an effective way to help people on the streets deal with the problems they faced.

"Counselling is used to address psychosocial issues like childhood trauma, mental health, substance abuse or victim issues."

Ms Young said at times, intervention from authorities were ineffective as individuals did not want to bring about any change in their lives.

She noted the increase in the number of people on the streets of Lautoka and said the organisation provided services to people who experienced extreme poverty.

Ms Young said to curb this problem, there needed to be an increase in community housing available to those at risk of homelessness.

Teen sexual abuse

Shayal Devi, Thursday, January 23, 2014, The Fiji Times

A SIGNIFICANT number of teenagers become pregnant after being sexually assaulted.

Lautoka-based NGO Empower Pacific revealed between September last year and January this year, the ten teenage pregnancy cases referred to the counselling agency involved young girls who were victims of sexual assault.

CEO Patrick Morgam said as a result, the teenagers were unable to instigate contraceptive methods to avoid pregnancy.

"In the period of September to present, Empower Pacific has responded to ten separate cases of teenage pregnancy," he said.

He said the issue was serious and needed the attention of parents and members of the community.

"Anecdotal evidence from previous reporting periods also suggests that in teenage pregnancies, there is a lack of education of ways to avoid getting pregnant.

"In relation to lack of knowledge on ways to avoid getting pregnant, education and awareness in our homes, schools and communities is essential.

"Teenage pregnancy is usually preventable.

"As adults, it is our responsibility to provide our young people with enough information so that they can then make informed decisions about their sexual behaviour.

"This would then not only decrease pregnancy but better protect them from sexually transmitted infections, like HIV."

Mr Morgam went on to say the majority of cases that Empower Pacific came across involved pregnant teenagers going on to bear her child while still being supported by parents.

More kids face abuse

Shayal Devi, Sunday, January 05, 2014, The Fiji Times

CHILDREN have been subjected to intentional physical and mental violence from parents and guardians.

And Empower Pacific, an NGO, says this form of abuse has been "extensively noticeable".

Empower Pacific CEO Patrick Morgam revealed that as a result of such incidents, approximately 114 children and their families received counselling and social work support from Empower Pacific last year.

He said the children were referred to the NGO by the Department of Social Welfare and others.

"Parents don't mean to hurt their children but it is because of anger that they end up hurting them and do not realise what they have done until later on," he said. "We have seen quite a lot of cases coming up so the number of parents intentionally hurting their children has increased."

Mr Morgam stressed there was a need to reduce cases of violence against children. He said predominant referral issues from alternative sources included cases that were domestic violence related, sexual harm, physical harm and neglect.

Aprt from it being extensively noticeable, he said: "Also, the dependency of children and especially traditional beliefs that parents and grown-ups have total rights over children has exposed children to violence."

Mr Morgam said statistics showed a total of 79 families had case plans where children's issues, including medical, education, emotional and child protection issues were being addressed in therapeutic intervention.

"This equates to a total of 187 children."

He believes a lot of abuse cases have not been reported.

"After the emergence of more strict laws and more severe punishment, people are becoming more confident and getting out of their traditional barriers. I also believe that the increased violence against children is also linked to the increase in social problems."

Mr Morgam said children could not do much to protect themselves therefore the responsibility fell on parents and society to create awareness on these issues.

"Organisations such as Empower Pacific can help train parents on anger management, stress management and child protection. We need stricter laws when it comes to children's well being.

"The communities should work together and address these issues during gatherings and create more awareness. Empower Pacific has trained counsellors and social workers who can assist in facilitating community awareness program."

He said parents should be more patient when dealing with children and take lessons on anger management to reduce excessive reactions when angry and develop skills to use anger as a signal to redirect their behaviour.