(Picture caption: The New Zealand Folaha Society of Development held vaccination drives with assistance from the Ministry for Pacific Peoples’ COVID-19 Community Fund.)
Promoting and nurturing the Tongan culture in Aotearoa is at the heart of the New Zealand Folaha Society of Development based in Mangere, Auckland.
Established in 2010 by people who stem from Folaha and Nukuhetulu and reside in New Zealand, the organisation works hard to ensure the cultural customs and values are not lost among diasporas.
When the pandemic hit in 2020, the organisation was forced to adapt and try to achieve its mission of developing, promoting and encouraging the pursuit of excellence in education, religion, and cultural customs of Tonga in New Zealand a little differently, says Society Secretary Soana Muimuiheata.
“All the events and activities we did in-person now had to be conducted on-line, including Zoom meetings and exercise – we also had to stay up-to-date with the Government’s plan and information they were sharing,” Soana says.
Last year, with peoples’ health a priority for the Society, it set about promoting vaccination among the Folaha and Tongan community, specifically targeting the hard-to-reach and reluctant to vaccinate.
To help achieve its goal, the Society applied for funding from the Ministry for Pacific Peoples’ (MPP) COVID-19 Community Fund.
“It was necessary to get funding to help facilitate, promote and provide financial support for activities,” Soana explains.
“We helped co-ordinate and provide financial support for Tongan community vaccination sites such as Malu'i Ma'a Tonga (MMT), and we encouraged people to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
“We also promoted our campaign during a radio programme on 1593 AM Letio Tonga o Aotearoa; and held a TikTok competition for our youth, promoting vaccination.
Times are challenging for Pacific Aotearoa, and Soana encourages other groups trying to achieve their goals to reach out and apply for COVID-19 financial assistance, available through initiatives such as MPP’s Pacific Aotearoa Community Outreach Fund.
“Accessing funding has provided us with finances to facilitate some innovative activities and bring everyone together to enjoy the event – when COVID-19 allows us to.
“It has helped make the vaccination a culturally safe, family and community event, while taking away the fear around the virus.
“Through our campaign made possible with funding, we have provided social support, and a sense of belonging for the whole family and community.”
Visit the MPP website for our current funding initiatives.