(Picture caption: Ballymena residents enjoy a kai meakai during Tonga Language Week.)
As the only Tongan at his workplace, Ballymena Home mental health support worker Kimiora Folaumoeloa has always felt a responsibility to share his culture with those around him.
Ballymena Home is a mental health rehabilitation home based in Tokoroa, which provides respite and long-term residential care.
Kimiora has made himself, and his culture well-known during his time working there.
So, when Uike Kātoanga’i ‘o e lea faka-Tonga - Tonga Language Week 2022 rolled around in early September, Kimiora jumped at the opportunity to encourage the Ballymena Home residents to get behind the language week and celebrate Tonga.
“I felt as the only Tongan at the workplace it was my responsibility to ensure our culture is shared during the language week, especially in New Zealand where we accept all cultures,” Kimiora says.
Of Tongan and Cook Islands descent, Kimiora hails from Kolonga and Ha'apai in Tonga, and Aitutaki, and was raised in Tokoroa by his kainga.
Knowing one’s language is widely regarded as a window to your cultural identity and a key to wellbeing, so Kimiora saw sharing about his culture as fitting at the rehabilitation facility.
“For Tonga Language Week, I set up my workplace, and posted information and photos explaining the Tongan culture and traditions.
“We also held a kai meakai, or feast, to celebrate Tonga Language Week.
“I made otai and got my family to prepare lu kapapulu and some ota ika and we invited our residents at Ballymena and Braeburn (another facility) to enjoy our feed and afterwards, we danced to some Tongan music and did some activities together.”
Residents and staff alike enjoyed the event, and Kimiora says he was delighted knowing he had given them a taste of what Tonga it was like to be from the Kingdom of Tonga.
Speaking at the recent Pacific Aotearoa Lalanga Fou engagement in Tokoroa, hosted by the Ministry for Pacific Peoples (MPP), Kimiora says he has since created the Tokoroa Tongan Community Group, to build a platform for people of Tongan descent who live in Tokoroa, to come together.
He says there is a need for Pacific communities in the region to feel more supported.
“It would be great if MPP can help the community continue to find resources needed to connect more with the soil of our ancestors,” he says.
“I would love for Pacific people everywhere to embrace their culture wherever they may be based.”
Visit the MPP website for more information on the Ministry’s Pacific Language Weeks series, and language resources for each language week.