(Picture caption: South Auckland-based Iosefo Joseph Fa'afiu leads a HopeWalk to raise suicide awareness.)
Iosefo Joseph Fa'afiu is part of a resolute army of volunteers from across Aotearoa, who have recently been recognised in the 2022 Minister of Health Volunteer Awards, staged at Parliament’s Grand Hall.
The awards celebrate and recognise the thousands of dedicated health and disability sector volunteers who give many hours of their time to help other New Zealanders, going above-and-beyond for people in their communities.
This year, 15 teams and 16 individuals who are outstanding achievers across seven categories – healthcare service provider, community and non-governmental organisations, Māori health, Pacific health, youth volunteer, long service and, for the first time – COVID health volunteers, were acknowledged.
Iosefo, a proud Samoan pastor and community leader in Papakura, says he feels deeply humbled to be named this year’s Pacific Health Award recipient after being nominated by HopeWalk and Link4Life.
Having served the South Auckland community for nearly 20 years, Iosefo began working in suicide prevention five years ago when he founded HopeWalk, a grassroots suicide awareness movement, which organises and leads walks both nationally and overseas.
Back then, Iosefo was stunned to discover South Auckland had no suicide support groups.
“There are groups out west and on the North Shore but we found it really shocking that in the area we are in, with the suicide rate we have, there were no support groups.”
To address inequities in the system, Iosefo created Link4Life, to help bereaved Māori and Pasifika families find support after the loss of a loved one to suicide, through a series of three workshops.
After HopeWalk, he worked with locals to create LinkFest, a health promotional festival filled with activities, speakers and live music, which started with 50 families, but dropped to 35 over the past year due to COVID-19 and Polyfest.
Iosefo says he is blessed to be the recipient of such an acknowledgment, and I have dedicated it to my family for allowing me to do what I do which takes up a lot of my time.
“However, I see it as an opportunity to serve my community and engage with them authentically.”
Visit HERE for a full list of recipients.