Children’s book author and Languages Innovation Fund recipient Ryan Gounder believes all young people need role models to look up to.
In Fiji, rugby players are like superheroes for many children and the lessons they teach us can strongly impact children in the community, Ryan says.
With this in mind, Ryan, who was born and raised in Fiji and now lives in New Zealand, is writing a new series, starting with Rugby Superheroes Volume One, published in Fijian with English translations.
“In the Fijian community, it is often discussed at our annual gatherings how language is being lost,” Ryan explains.
“Parents are always encouraged to speak in Fijian to their children at home and having books translated into Fijian gives parents a very powerful tool to promote the language.”
Using the grant Ryan recently received from the Ministry for Pacific Peoples (MPP) Languages Innovation Fund, he has been able to publish 300 issues of Rugby Superheroes.
These books have been distributed among the Fijian community, who otherwise would not be able to afford to purchase it.
The book fills two significant gaps for the community - having homegrown superheroes for children to relate to and having stories in our indigenous languages, he adds.
Following engagements with communities throughout Aotearoa, MPP has confirmed the significance of Pacific languages and cultures to an individual’s sense of belonging and identity.
The Languages Innovation Fund aims to support community initiatives which celebrate and increase the awareness of Pacific languages; help grow the number of speakers of Pacific languages; and help ensure Pacific languages are recognised and valued.
Ryan’s book and the six more volumes he has in the pipeline, not only promote awareness around the Fijian language, but also celebrate the country, people, sport and culture which make Fiji the unique place it is.
Grants such as the Languages Innovation Fund exist to help empower Pacific people to create a strong base built on cultural values for our young people, Ryan says.
“Without the support of this fund, it would be difficult for members of the community, such as myself, to be able to do the work that we do.
“We need to develop more tangible resources for our young Pacific people that resonates with their identity as Pasifika people, and which will empower them and help develop resilience to be the 'best versions of themselves' - a famous phrase often using within the Rugby Sevens circles in Fiji.”