COVID-19 has presented many daily challenges for Pacific people in Aotearoa over the past few months.
It has put a halt on a lot of the things they value - church, tangi, family gatherings, all the platforms that allow Pacific people to exercise their love for Pacific culture and one another.
In the hope of strengthening the Pacific voice and presenting a united front in his hometown of Christchurch, Wellbeing Chaplain and former Youth Worker Zion Tauamiti has created a social media platform Fa’atasi20 Chch Pasifika Connects for people to connect, find information, support, and encouragement during COVID-19 restrictions.
Born and raised in Canterbury, Zion’s parents are both Samoan, and in recent years, he has been an integral part of the Pacific community in the region, working to improve the wellbeing and lives of those around him.
“When COVID-19 hit, I wanted to set up a social media platform for Christchurch Pacific communities to connect to for information, support and encouragement,” Zion says.
“Most networks for Pacific are only email which is a barrier for most of our families as they don’t all use, or keep up with email, but most of our parents are on Facebook.”
While many things came to a standstill during the COVID-19 lockdown, Zion decided to use his time productively to help the Pacific community, working closely with whānau within his network at Eastern Eagles Rugby League Club and Sydenham Rugby Club.
“I sat on the Te Putahitanga COVID-19 Response Taskforce with the support of the Ministry for Pacific Peoples representing Pasifika.
“In that group I helped brand the name Manaaki20 – an informative website, which allowed me to start Faatasi20 with the same purpose as Manaaki20, to unify the Pacific community networks and bring together community groups that needed a platform.”
Within these networks, Zion set up online surveys which fetched over 200 responses from Māori and Pacific families in Christchurch asking for help.
“We applied for funding from the Ministry of Social Development to help meet the needs of our families - one application has been approved for just over $10,000 and the other application of over $20,000 is being processed.”
Although it has been a difficult time, Zion, who suffered a heart attack and was in a coma in 2018 says the lockdown has offered up many highlights.
“I have grown to love my family on levels I never imagined; I also love working from home which I thought was impossible with a family; I spent more time with my partner and children in six weeks than I have the whole time we’ve been together; my relationship with my mum was strengthened.”
Zion says he also noticed his ability to trust God grew, and that he is more than capable of making decisions on his own without meeting with everyone first to validate or influence those decisions.
“I was able to fast track five-year plans I have had for one community and condense them into six weeks during lockdown – showing the community it really is possible if you push hard enough for change.”
On a roll, Zion intends to continue strengthening the Pacific voice in Christchurch.
“We want to show Pacific funding agencies and government that Christchurch has programmes worth investing in - little horn big noise.
“We might be small, but our heart for Pacific Christchurch is united and strong and we will stand fa’atasi.”