Hailing from Tonga, New Zealand-born 2021 Prime Minister’s Pacific Youth Award (PMPYA) recipient Veilomani Tafa (pictured) says community work has been engrained in her since her childhood.
Raised by her late grandmother Asinate Motulalo and namesake Veilomani Kailao in Auckland, the 21-year-old remembers the importance of faith, love and kindness being instilled in her.
At the recent Ministry for Pacific Peoples (MPP) 2021 PMPYA, Veilomani was presented with the Culture and Identity Award plus a paid internship with the Government agency which provides a voice for Pacific Aotearoa.
Pacific young people are a fast growing and diverse group in Aotearoa, with over 50 percent aged under 25, and the PMPYA celebrates success and rewards outstanding achievement by this group in Aotearoa.
Veilomani was one of eight recipients at the 2021 awards, staged online in December.
The proud Tongan attended Good Shepherd Primary and Marist College, and says Marist helped her build resilience and to understand more about an education system not necessarily designed to see our Pasifika students thrive.
“This is where my ambitions of studying Education began,” she explains.
“I am currently studying towards my Bachelor of Education degree at the University of Auckland – and of course, my late grandmother Asinate and late Aunty Langakali Motulalo also motivated me to pursue a career in Education.”
Community work has always been a part of Veilomani’s life, and she has participated in projects such as Vinnies, Project Kintsugi, Edmund Rice Camps, Tongan Unit Programme, and the Pacific Education and Social Work Association.
These projects have allowed her to put the Tongan values of Anga Faka’apa’apa’ (respect) and Mamahi’i me’a (loyalty, passion and work ethic) into practice.
Winning the award means the world to Veilomani and her family, while also providing the opportunity for experience, exposure, and exploration to occur, she says.
“My family has worked hard to ensure I would one day have the opportunity to share my potential, and I hope to use this award to inspire other young Pacific youth, who are passionate about helping our people.
“Service and giving back are important and this is a chance to give back to help our communities flourish, while sustaining our culture, traditions and values and ensuring they are preserved and valued.”
Veilomani has a vision that one day learning Pacific languages at school will be completely normal and more Pacific students will thrive, supported by their teacher, family and school all working cohesively together.
Now she is in her final semester at university she is determined to absorb all the knowledge her lecturers offer, so she can help make her vision a reality.
Visit the MPP website for more information on the Prime Minister’s Pacific Youth Awards.