A dedicated and focused Ministry for Pacific Peoples (MPP) Regional Partnerships team hit the ground running when New Zealand shifted once more to Alert Level 4 at 11:59pm on August 17.
Ready at the helm, to steer his team’s engagement with Pasifika throughout the national lockdown and outbreak of COVID-19 in the Auckland and Wellington communities, was Tuaopepe Abba Fidow (pictured), Deputy Secretary for Regional Partnerships at MPP.
With Pacific communities considered a vulnerable group in Aotearoa, Tuaopepe was aware he had to move fast to mobilise the Regional Partnerships team, support the Pacific health response, and provide understanding to Pasifika communities around key health messages and information.
“Pacific communities are our own communities, and supporting them is the priority, particularly with this lockdown,” Tuaopepe says.
“We responded on day one of the lockdown, reaching out to community and church leaders to see what was needed, and how we could coordinate with the Ministry of Health, other government agencies and providers such Pasifika Futures, South Seas Healthcare, The Fono and Le Va, to support delivery of those needs.”
Within five days, MPP and partner agencies Ministry of Health and Ministry of Social Development had held two Zoom fono attracting nearly 800 Pacific peoples from throughout the country, as well as organised a week-long series of seven Zoom online fono starting on August 23.
In addition, MPP, led by the Regional Partnerships team, has connected with over 2,000 community members directly – to listen to their issues and concerns, respond with the right information where they can, and escalate where appropriate.
Tuaopepe explains the fono and phone calls are part of our Pacific Community Outreach Strategy – targeting as many people in Pacific Aotearoa as possible, from Auckland church leaders who would pass on the information to their congregations, to Pacific young people with the Kau Tuli Youth Fono, and to all of New Zealand with the National Zoom Fono.
“A range of topics have been covered, with medical practitioners dispelling any myths or beliefs around receiving the COVID-19 vaccination and sharing their knowledge about the fast-spreading delta variant,” he says.
“The Ministry also hosted a fono discussing business and employment with advice on how both employers and employees could manoeuvre the impacts of another lockdown, as well as a focused fono with Pacific young people.”
Of Samoan descent, Tuaopepe has been involved in the public sector for 15 years, with a break to work for national Pacific mental health and addiction provider Le Va.
Tautua, or the act of service through leadership, is engrained in him so when it has come to working during challenging times, Tuaopepe realises the significance of the work being done.
“We are doing what needs to be done, with many leaders across the public sector and out communities,” he says.
“Pacific peoples are relational – it is not just about communicating key messages around the pandemic, why we should get vaccinated.
“It’s also about getting the facts out in our own languages, having regular and consistent engagements at all levels, and opening the space for communities to safely have their own conversations collectively, and to let us know where we can support and respond.”
Although there is a sense of COVID-19 fatigue both throughout the Pacific community and his own team who are working tirelessly during the lockdown, Tuaopepe remains both stoic in his role and supportive.
“It is a difficult time, and people are affected in so many ways.
“What is important, is we lead and keep working as a united front, to coordinate with our colleagues across government, serve our communities, and to keep talking and sharing, check in on family members and friends, to ensure they are informed, and they are okay physically, emotionally, and mentally.”
Visit the Unite Against COVID-19 for more information on where to get your vaccination.
The Ministry is also supporting a COVID-19 vaccination health line specifically for Pacific people living in Auckland. Call 0800 21 12 21. You can book your vaccination seven days a week, from 8am–8pm.