Samoan born and raised Sahara Anae wears many hats, including that of a mother, wife, Civil and Environmental Engineer, Pacific Koloa Collective member and Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) New Zealand Programme Manager.
Her many roles all lead her down the same path to her life purpose - to serve humanity.
With the COVID-19 situation affecting the world right now, Sahara’s call to serve is louder than ever.
Sahara has been a Programme Manager at ADRA for over four years, and the role involves a lot of travel within the Pacific and South East Asia, where projects are based.
Since COVID-19 evolved into a pandemic, Sahara and the ADRA team have been working from Auckland, with Pacific people in New Zealand, along with the organisation’s international project partners.
During Easter, ADRA launched the Love Thy Neighbour initiative to address food security needs of New Zealand families who are struggling to make ends meet, especially with loss of income due to the lockdown among many other challenges.
“ADRA also sends out Daily Hope messages through social media to uplift the spirits of those who are feeling the stress of the lockdown, and we have a Prayer Request line where people can click in and leave a message for what they would like us to pray for,” Sahara explains.
The ADRA team also has daily conversations with people around the country who call in to share stories, prayers or just to have a chat.
Internationally, ADRA is working with its project partners to plan their preparation plans to address COVID-19.
“These responses differ from country to country, but New Zealand is consistent in providing support to our partners to ensure the work addresses the needs of the people,” she says.
During COVID-19 lockdown and restrictions, the biggest challenge for Sahara and the ADRA team is to access people in need without physically reaching them.
“Doing everything online and making the messages impactful is a major challenge - being there online is not the same as a face-to-face conversation as we all know.”
Sahara’s work with ADRA aligns naturally with her involvement with the Pacific Koloa Collective (PKC), she adds.
The Koloa is a body of indigenous practitioners from Pasifika and Maori in the development and humanitarian sector, and its function falls naturally into my role and ethnicity and as Programme Manager at ADRA NZ and vice versa.
“It is really a space where we want to ensure the Pacific and Maori voice/presence is well represented at every level from planning to implementation phases of development.
“We also want to ensure humanitarian works are directed to Pacific and Maori within New Zealand.
“It is a safe space for our Pacific and Maori practitioners to share and learn from each other’s experiences in the projects and works they deliver, finding collective solutions in challenges faced, and creating a platform in or outside the workspace where these can be addressed.”
Sahara chooses to work in the humanitarian area because it is morally fulfilling.
“My biggest satisfaction comes from the fact I am able to use my qualification, talent and experience to help others improve their quality of life through the various works that we do,” she says.
“Every day is a lesson for me as well, because we do not dictate what communities need, they lead this process and we do what we can to ensure it happens for them.
“The quality of life is their definition, and not ours.”