A Season of Change

   Swinburne University of Technology 4          This week marks exactly 3 months since I have relocated from Sydney to Melbourne after accepting a job offer as a Lecturer at one of Melbourne’s top 3 universities – Swinburne University of Technology. With the support of my parents, my partner and loved ones, the transition from one city to another was smooth and for the most part, it was incredibly exciting.
My first visit to Melbourne city was actually in November 2016 when I presented a research paper at the Australian Association for Research in Education Conference. After the brief visit, I remember saying that ‘I could see myself living Melbourne’ as a lot of what I had seen during that first visit reminded me of my birth country – New Zealand. However, I did not seriously consider that it would be a possibility and that 2017 would be the year I actually move to Melbourne.
Swinburne University of Technology          I started my new role at Swinburne only a day after I arrived in Melbourne. Basically, I hit the ground running. Immediately I felt that this is where I am meant to be at this point of my life. I believe that every encounter, challenge and learning experience that I have had, have all prepared me for this season of change. Taking on this new role at Swinburne University of Technology has meant that my responsibilities have increased dramatically and this is something that I do not take for granted. In addition to my role as a Lecturer, I am also a Unit Convenor for a few units and I am a Course Director for one of the Bachelor of Education degrees. This week alone saw me juggling a few competing deadlines and I am glad that with collegial support, I was able to meet all of the deadlines.  My new colleagues, senior management and the staff that I have met across the university thus far have been welcoming, helpful and supportive. I am particularly impressed by the high level of collegiality in this space. The students have been wonderful and they add to the purpose of why I am here thus making this experience all the more worthwhile. I am truly grateful for the opportunity that I have received to take on this new role and for all the responsibilities that are inextricably linked.

 Swinburne University of Technology 6           They say that Melbourne is the world’s most liveable city and I must agree on many levels. While I miss everyone who resides in Sydney and in my hometown Auckland in New Zealand, relocating   to Melbourne has enabled me to reconnect with family members and friends whom I knew from Auckland, New Zealand. It also meant that I was able to reconnect with colleagues that I had met previously. As a result, I have made new connections outside of work. Within the first few months of settling here in Melbourne, I have become involved with a local church, I have met family members that I have never met before, I have met the locals within my neighbourhood, I am on an advisory panel for a Pasifika community project, and I am a member of an educational research consortium. Despite all the excitement, settling in Melbourne during the 2017 winter season had me at one point trying to fight off the cold virus and it knocked me back for a couple of weeks. Temperatures in the mornings and evenings have been as low as 3 degrees and in other parts of Melbourne it has been less.  I have never experienced these low temperatures before and I think I am genetically coded for warmer weather lol! Nonetheless, this is all part of the Melbourne experience and despite the wintry months, it has been a truly heart-warming experience thus far.

 Swinburne University of Technology 7           What has been particularly encouraging is that over the past 3 months my Swinburne colleagues, at different times and in different conversations, have extended their support and advice as I continue to navigate in this new space. Each time I have thanked them individually, I have noticed that there seems to be a common thread in their responses and that is they are just ‘paying it forward’. So in this season of change, I will give this new role, my students and my involvement with my family, friends and community here in Melbourne, the absolute best that I can offer. And in doing so, I will keep to the common thread within this new space and pay it forward.
Swinburne University of Technology 2           For the readers who have been following this blog over the past 5 years and those who have recently started following, thank you for journeying alongside me. Looking back over the past 5 years, I am glad that in the moments of uncertainty, I have been able to step out of my comfort zone and have taken a leap of faith trusting that God’s grace will be sufficient. A piece of advice that I have offered my students and the younger generation, is to always stay true to your course, believe that you have the capacity to fulfil your goals and dreams, put in the required work and be open to others providing support for you along the way. If I can do it, you can too. Until my next blog post, take care. God bless, Dr. Maryanne Pale.

 

Celebrating International Women’s Day 2017 with the Pacific Women’s Professional and Business Network in New South Wales, Australia

The inaugural “Celebrate Brilliance” event was hosted by the Pacific Women’s Professional and Business Network (PWPBN) in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia on Saturday 25th March 2017 in association with International Women’s Day 2017. PWPBN inspired a commitment of over 100 women who attended the event in celebration and recognition of the achievements of Pacific women within the field of business and other professions in New South Wales, Australia.

Melissa Malu Baleilekutu (Manager of ADRA Community Centre) and I had travelled to Castle Hill where this event took place and we arrived at the venue that morning with great enthusiasm. We were greeted by the young executives of PWPBN who then led us into the function room. The tables were adorned with Pacific accents and each table was labelled with a name which reaffirmed the various attributes women possess. We knew that we were going to have a positive experience and indeed we did.

IMG_9119The “Celebrate Brilliance” event program included an inspiring line up of Pacific women who shared their experiences, gifts of song and poetry, including words of encouragement. The event began with an opening prayer led by Margaret Nekaere-Cowan (President of the Australian Cook Island Council) in her native tongue which was accompanied with an English translator. Next the Master of Ceremony for the event, Robyn Loau (Artist/SingerActress), was introduced onto the stage where she led the event program with poise and eloquence.

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What took place next had me welling up with tears. Four young executives of PWPBN, Rosaline Chantaè Parker, Winnie Dunn, Tiana Echegaray and Selai Rokotuiwai, each walked from the back of the room, weaving in between the tables at which all the guests were seated at, towards the stage reciting a stanza each from my poem “A Woman of Strength”. Once the young executives arrived at the stage, the Founder and Lead Executive Donina Va’a recited the final stanza of the poem. “A Woman of Strength” was a piece that I had written which was inspired by Mother. Although my Mother is in New Zealand; in that particular moment, it felt as if she too was in the room. I felt truly honoured.

IMG_9118In following, a heart-warming tribute was made to the late Dr. Teresia Teaiwa as she was recognised by the PWBPN as a Pacific woman of global influence. Earlier that week, the news that Dr. Teresia Teaiwa had passed away saddened many around the world and this was reflected by the numerous tributes shared in the media and on social media about the impact that her life has had on others. She was a trailblazer whom I greatly admired and I appreciate her for the support that she had shown me. She will be sorely missed. May she rest in peace.

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I was then introduced onto the stage by Robyn Loau. Teary-eyed, I approached the stage and placed my speech on the lectern. I took a deep breath in and as I exhaled, I looked out into the room filled with Grandmothers, Mothers, Aunties, sisters, daughters and nieces, and an overwhelming sense of joy and gratitude came over me. I was honoured and truly humbled to have received an invitation to be the Chief Guest Speaker for this event. In my speech, I reflected on parts of my journey and I shared that sometimes obstacles or challenges arise, whether we had expected it to or not and when they do it can become quite discouraging. However, it is in these moments we are always presented with two options 1) to give up and walk away or 2) to trust the process and keep moving forward. More often than not, I would choose the latter and in doing so, I have kept in prayer trusting that God will continue to lead the way. I hope that my experiences had positively impacted those who were in attendance.

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Kittu Rhandawa (an Independent Candidate for the Blacktown City Council) was also a special guest speaker for this event and she shared her experiences within her field of work which were both inspiring and thought-provoking. She is a fierce woman armed with a lot of passion. The guest performers included Rosie Gibbons (Singer/Writer/Actress), ‘Ana Fifita (Mezzo Soprano Singer) and Kiarateuila Mckibbins (Artist/Singer/Actress). These women blew us away. Each of their performances filled the room including all of our hearts with their beautiful gifts and talents. Their contributions were a blessing indeed.

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The panelists were Lesley Ieremia (Director of InterContinental Hotels Group), Maryjane McKibbins-Schewenke (Founder/Director of Matavai Cultural Arts) and Paulina Fusitu’a (Senior Lawyer with the Australian Government Solicitors). These women are extraordinary. They shared their narratives including their successes and the various challenges that they have overcome within their respective fields. At this point of the program, I could not hold back my tears. Particularly when Maryjane McKibbins-Schewenke shared her most challenging moments, it resonated with me. The cultural performances were by Matavai Cultural Arts and while this was not the first time I have seen the young children and youth perform, they continue to captivate the room with such grace, passion and love for their/our culture from around the South Pacific. Their performances were absolutely beautiful.

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The “Celebrate Brilliance” event program concluded with an awards presentation which saw the following women who were recognised for their achievements and contributions either to their peers, or a women’s movement, or their chosen field or a local Pacific community:
· Elianna Walton – Pacific International Runway Award
· Lani Tuitavake – Outstanding Mother Award
· Jasmine Samuel Mata – IMG Pacific Young Woman
· Selena Short-Afeaki – Pacific Business Woman 2017
· Fatai Slender – Hall of Fame Award
· MaryJane McKibbins-Schewenke – Pacific Woman 2017 Award

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Congratulations to all the award winners. Thank you for being trailblazers so that my generation and the next have brilliant examples to follow.

I came away from this event feeling positive, encouraged and blessed. The key messages that resonated with me centres on determination, resilience and passion. What I have gained as a result of this event is a wonderful and an empowering community of supportive women here in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. A sisterhood that I am grateful and honoured to have. I applaud Donina Va’a for having the courage to act on the vision that she had of bringing Pacific women together, to connect, engage and inspire. I am also grateful for Seini Afeaki, Alisa Peacock and Fatai Slender, who continue to provide their support and guidance for the next generation of Pacific women professionals here in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. The PWPBN NSW “Celebrate Brilliance” breakfast was a marvellous event in association with International Women’s Day 2017.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. If you have enquiries about this blog please use the contact tab on the homepage to send in your message or feel free to comment below. Kind regards, Dr. Maryanne Pale.

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For more information about PWPBN, please contact the Lead Executive/Founder Donina Va’a on:
Email: pacificwomenpbn@gmail.com
Mobile: (+61) 0470 582 415

For more photos from the event, please visit Silent Kay Photography’s Facebook page using this link here: https://www.facebook.com/silentkayphotography/

“We sweat and cry salt water, so we know that the ocean is really in our blood.”

– Dr. Teresia Teaiwa

Celebrating International Women’s Day 2017 at the ADRA Community Centre

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Celebrating International Women’s Day at ADRA Community Centre. From left to right: Suzanna, Anoulack Chanthivong NSW MP Member for Macquarie Fields, Manager of ADRA Community Centre Melissa Baleilekutu, Pastor Warwick Sawyer, Jan Nicoll. 

On March 8th 2017 of every year, millions of people around the world  celebrate International Women’s Day as it is a day that commemorates the struggle for women’s rights and an opportunity to unite and celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, as visibility and awareness help drive positive change for women.

Located in Macquarie Fields, Sydney, Australia, the ADRA Community Centre hosted a delightful morning tea in celebration of International Women’s Day. This event brought together women from within and around the community to connect and engage in the sharing of stories and to reflect on this year’s International Women’s Day theme “Be Bold For Change”. The Manager of ADRA Community Centre, Melissa Baleilekutu, stated that “it was important to celebrate International Women’s Day and bring women from the community alongside women from community organisations and government, to share stories and embrace each others’ bold moments and achievement, and at the same time inspire one another to be bold for change.”   

The ADRA Community Centre’s mission is to work with people in poverty and distress to create just and positive change through empowering partnerships and responsible action. The centre offer support programs for families such as grandparents and family members of those living with an addiction. Support programs include, but are not limited to, counselling, mentoring, career guidance, case management and financial counselling. In addition, the centre hosts a homework club, an art group, mental health groups, and a women’s group. Also, emergency relief packages are available for those in need. The ADRA Community Centre is a safe place where the community can visit, connect with others and/or talk with the staff.

Upon arrival at the ADRA Community Centre for the International Women’s Day event, as one of the guests in attendance, we were greeted by staff members who welcomed us inside. As we entered, the aroma of the delectable spread wafted throughout the building which led us to the tables lined up with delicious treats. Centred on the front wall was large black print which read #BEBOLDFORCHANGE and above vibrant colours popped from the ceiling which set the scene for what was going to be a morning filled with bursts of inspiration, encouragement and light-hearted humour. 

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The delectable morning tea prepared by ADRA Community Centre.

The International Women’s Day celebration began with an introduction by the centre’s Manager, Melissa Baleilekutu, followed by the centre’s Team Leader Volunteer and Case Manager Sarah Hamilton who delivered a warm welcome and an acknowledgement of the traditional owners of the land, and elders both past and present, and those emerging. Next, we were asked to pair up with another person whom we have not met before and to share with each other a bold moment that we have experienced. In this instance, I met and spoke with a woman who shared with me that the bold moments that she has had in her life include raising her four children on her own. I could feel the courage, resilience and love in her words spoken. Moved her story, I applaud this Mother for her boldness. Once this sharing period was completed, different women were invited to the front to share the stories that were exchanged. These moments were uplifting and inspiring.
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Celebrating International Women’s Day at ADRA Community Centre. From left to right: Barbara Faauinga, Moana Glassie-Strickland, myself, Mal Fruean, and Melissa Waaka Smith.

In following, it was time for the guest speakers  to share. I am honoured and grateful that I was invited to this event as one of the guest speakers. The other guest speakers were Kassandra Isvik from Benevolent Society, Ngapera Paki – Manager for Youth Off The Streets, Koch Centre, and Pastor Warwick Sawyer. Given that the theme this year for International Women’s Day was #BeBoldForChange, we were invited to share about a bold moment and how that has impacted change within our lives and in the lives of others. I spoke from my heart and with the purpose to encourage, inspire and empower the audience. I shared a few of my experiences as a student and as a staff member at The University of Auckland, New Zealand and more recently as a staff member at Western Sydney University, Australia. These experiences had presented me with a couple of options: 1. to give up and walk away; 2. to be bold in order to take a leap of faith. I mentioned that more often than not, I would choose the second option. However, I noted that while there are times in our lives where we can choose to be bold in order to take a leap of faith; other times will require us to allow others to be bold for us, and there is no shame in that. I acknowledged the strong female figures in my life who have influenced and empowered me as I was growing up and still to this day. Also, I acknowledged the strong male figures who alongside the influential women in my life, have supported the pursuit of my hopes, dreams and career ambitions.  Moreover, I reflected on 2014 when I had graduated from The University of Auckland, New Zealand with a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Education, and how I remember the smile of an 8 year old Tongan girl when she ran up to me on graduation day to tell me “When I grow up, I want to be like you“. In that moment, all the negative experiences and hardships that I had encountered leading up to that point in time became a distant memory. Her words serve as a reminder for me today that when you are bold for yourself, you can instill a sense of courage and hope in others in the pursuit of their dreams.

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Celebrating International Women’s Day. From left to right: Victor Counted, Melissa Baleilekutu and myself.

Being bold for change as I understand it to be, means to place your trust in God. To uplift your hopes, dreams and career ambitions in prayer. To trust that God will lead you to where you need to be. And that when you arrive, for you to remember to be bold for others, because when you are bold for others, then change is inevitable. While over the years significant milestones have been reached in support for women’s rights across the globe, there remains a great amount of work for my generation and the next to put our hearts and minds together to advance equality, promote female voices that may go unheard, support success for women in education and within the workforce, and to impact positive change across various landscapes. In that light, I will continue to advocate for positive change and to continue to be bold not only for myself, but also for others. I concluded my talk with a quote by one of my favourite poets, the late Dr. Maya Angelou:

“Each time a woman stands up for herself,
without knowing it possibly,
without claiming it,
she stands up for all women.”
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I would like to extend my thanks and gratitude to the Manager of ADRA Community Centre, Melissa Baleilekutu, and her team for organising a wonderful and heart-warming event in celebration of International Women’s Day. I thoroughly enjoyed the event and I am grateful that I was there to be inspired by other women who are supporting their families, contributing to surrounding communities and striving within their field of work. Thank you Melissa for arriving at this point in time and holding the door open for myself and many other women to walk through. Your leadership and your example to serve are valued and much appreciated.
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Malo ‘aupito, ‘ofa lahi atu,

Dr. Maryanne Pale.

For more information about the ADRA Community Centre, please contact the Manager Melissa Baleilekutu on:  melissabaleilekutu@adra.org.au

International Women’s Day 2017 – #BeBoldForChange #IWD2017

 

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March 8th is observed across the world as International Women’s Day (IWD) celebrating the achievements of women in all aspects of life. The theme for IWD 2017 is ‘Be Bold For Change’ and this can be an opportunity for you to:

  • celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women because visibility and awareness help drive positive change for women
  • declare bold actions that you will take as an individual or organisation to help progress the gender agenda because purposeful action can accelerate gender parity across the world

To find out more information about events, resources and ideas for celebrating International Women’s Day, please visit www.internationalwomensday.com.

How will you #BeBoldForChange for #IWD2017?

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Creative Talanoa – 5 Years On

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My niece Hadassah and I in 2012.

Today, January 7th 2017, marks exactly 5 years since this blog was created. As mentioned in my previous post, it was my love for poetry, spoken word and all things creative that inspired me to create this blog in 2012. Did I expect to have almost 200,000 visits to this blog when I first created it? No. But it has happened and I am truly grateful.

Over the past five years, this blog has documented various experiences that I have had and the inspiring people whom I have either journeyed with or met along the way. I would like to extend my gratitude to all whom I have had the honour in sharing their stories and lived experiences on this blog. I appreciate your time, support and love. 

Given that I had competing deadlines; I am content with the number of posts that have gone live on this blog and the responses and engagement that I have received over the past five years from readers around the world. It has not been an easy task to host this blog as I have had to multi-task and manage competing deadlines. One of those deadlines was to complete my post-graduate studies which, by the grace of God, I managed to and in 2014 I graduated with a PhD in Education from The University of Auckland. Therefore, I would like to extend my gratitude to you for reading, following and sharing posts from this blog. Thank you so much. I look forward to sharing more stories and lived experiences with you all this year.

Please note that you can enter your email address on the right hand column of the homepage in order to receive a notification each time a new blog post has gone live. Also, please feel free to comment below or send through an email to creativetalanoa@gmail.com for any enquiries. I look forward to hearing from you.

God bless, Dr. Maryanne Pale

With Gratitude and Grace

It was 10 days before Christmas when I arrived back in New Zealand and I bumped into a person whom I had not seen in about five years. So naturally our conversation started from where we last left off. As we were talking, I realised how much has happened during the period with which had passed and how much this person had missed out on in my life and vice versa. What struck me the most about our conversation was reflecting on the numerous experiences and developments which have transpired and how those experiences have shifted me from what was, to what exists in this present moment. Some of the questions that this person had asked during the course of our conversation made me feel grateful for God’s grace upon my life.

It was timely that I had bumped into the person mentioned above because prior to departing Sydney, Australia to return home (New Zealand), I had facilitated talanoa sessions with 16 students whom I have worked alongside over the past couple of years at Western Sydney University. The talanoa sessions began in mid-November of this year when I shared with the students that I was in the process of writing my plans for the next five years as part of projecting a trajectory for my life academically, professionally and personally. It was 15 years ago when I started writing five year plans and I am about to enter my fourth cycle. I explained to the students that once my plans for the next five years are finalised, then I will uplift it all unto God through prayer as I have faith that He will establish the plans accordingly. The 16 students were inspired to follow suit and in mid-December of this year, they each wrote their hopes and plans that they have envisioned for themselves for the next five years. I read their writings on my flight home to New Zealand which was truly heart-warming. The students and I have agreed that we will reunite in five years time for a catch up and to revisit what they have written. I am optimistic for these 16 students and their hopes and plans ahead.

Moreover, it seems serendipitous that when 2017 arrives, it will mark five years since I started this blog. It was my love for poetry, spoken word and all things creative that inspired me to create this blog in 2012. Did I expect to have almost 200,000 visits to this blog when I first created it? No. But it has happened and I am truly grateful. To be able to share the stories and lived experiences of others on this blog has been a blessing. In addition, to be provided with opportunities to host talanoa sessions with creatives over the past five years and to feature them as special guests on this blog has been a wonderful experience for me. It has not been an easy task to host this blog over the past five years as I have had to multi-task and manage competing deadlines. One of those deadlines was to complete my post-graduate studies which, by the grace of God, I managed to and in 2014 I graduated with a PhD in Education from The University of Auckland. Also, over the past five years I had to set aside time to engage with community work, to write and perform spoken word pieces, to present my academic work at international educational conferences, to deliver on speaking engagements at various church and community events, to create and enjoy memorable moments with my family and friends and the list continues. So I am grateful for the many lessons that I have learned along the way and the positive outcomes that have been achieved.

Upon reflection, I am content that I am not standing in the same place as I was in five years ago. I have been strengthened by the challenging situations that I have encountered. I am honoured to have been led into the direction that God had intended for me to go. I am thankful for the successes that I have had this year and over the past five years. Furthermore, I look forward to what lies ahead in 2017 and beyond, as I walk with God’s promise in Jeremiah 29:11-12.

On that note, I would like to extend my gratitude to you for reading, following and sharing posts from this blog. I am truly grateful. Thank you also to the people whom I have had honour in sharing their stories and lived experiences on this blog. I appreciate your time, support and love.

To conclude this post, below are a few questions for you to reflect on as we transition into 2017:

  1.     What are your hopes and plans for the next five years and why?
  2.     How are you going to work towards making your hopes and plans become realities?
  3.     What are you going to do once you have achieved all that you have set out to accomplish?

Feel free to comment below or send through an email to creativetalanoa@gmail.com if you have any enquiries.

Wishing you all the very best for 2017. I look forward to connecting with you in the new year with gratitude and grace.

God bless,

Dr. Maryanne Pale

Mele`ana To `i Pouono Kalekale Wickham – The inspiration behind Pouono Krafts

The Tongan community in New Zealand celebrated Tongan Language Week from 4th September 2016 to 10th September 2016. The theme was Fakakoloa `a Aotearoa `aki `a e Loto`i Tonga – Enriching Aotearoa with the Tongan Spirit. In addition, there were four sub-themes:

  1. Ko hoku Tonga – My Tongan Identity
  2. Loto `Ofa – Love
  3. Loto Faka`apa`apa – Respect
  4. Loto Fakatōkilalo – Humility

According to the 2016 Tongan Language Week Committee, Loto is the heart and spirit of affection and authority. Loto`i Tonga reflects Tongan people’s complex and beautiful beliefs, values and aspirations. To conclude the celebration of 2016 Tongan Language Week, I am honoured and grateful to feature Mele`ana To `i Pouono Kalekale Wickham as a special guest on this blog.

On a recent visit back home to New Zealand, I had the opportunity to meet with Pouono and we had a talanoa session about her passion for creating traditional Tongan attire, arts and crafts. In the process, she reflected on her lived experiences and acknowledged those who have inspired her along the way. Born and raised as a young child in the Kingdom of Tonga, she prides herself in her cultural heritage, her family connections and her faith in God. She currently resides in Paeroa, New Zealand with her husband Jamie Wickham which is where she runs her newly formed business Pouono Krafts. Her Tongan Spirit is exhibited through the beautiful traditional Tongan attire that she creates and in turn adorned by many in New Zealand and abroad.

Enjoy the read! (MP = Maryanne Pale)

MP: Please share with us a little about your background

Pouono:  I grew up in the Kingdom of Tonga in a village called Vaini with my grandparents – Lili and Siua Kalekale. They raised me for the first 10 years of my life. I learned so much from them. They disciplined me which helped prepare me for life. I was very fortunate to have grown up with them. I believe that because I was around my grandparents a lot, I developed a love for being around older people. We lived a simple life. We did not have much but they taught me to be happy and grateful for what we did have.

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MP:  You will always have that special bond with your Grandparents. Thank you for sharing. Who inspired you as you were growing up?

Pouono:  The first person that comes to mind is my Grandfather Siua. He was a very strong person and very wise. From him I learned to be independent and to never rely on people for my needs. He taught me that if I wanted something that I need to work for it. He told me that I should not expect to be handed things in life. He inspired me to be more loving and to be respectful towards others. I will always be grateful for him.

Also, there’s my Great-Aunt (my Grandmother’s older sister) who is a very humble person. As I was growing up in Tonga, I always looked up to her. She inspired me to love not only my family but also to love others around me which she demonstrated in her day to day living. She would invite strangers into her family house and feed them and as a young child I would always question why. It wasn’t until I got older that I realised and understood why she did that. Christ said ‘what you do to strangers, you do to me’ and so she was living her life according to Christ’s example. She inspired me to treat others just as I treat my family.

MP: That is so beautiful! Your family members have inspired you greatly.

Pouono:  Yes, I hope that when I have children of my own, I will be able to pass onto them the messages and lessons that I have learned from my Grandfather and my Great Aunty, and that my children could then pass it onto theirs.

I would also like to acknowledge a very important person in my life and that is my husband – Jamie Wickham. Over the past few years of my life, he has helped to shape me into the person that I am today. An example would be how he has helped me to let go of the grudges that I once held against others which was something that I struggled with. The people that did me wrong, I used to pretend they didn’t exist anymore and I never wanted anything to do with them; however, Jamie put things into perspective for me. It sure took a lot of effort but he never gave up and I felt that as soon as I started letting go of certain situations, I felt peace in my heart. Jamie taught me to forgive, and to also think wisely before I speak. Most importantly, he taught me to look for the good in people and to focus on the positives. He has taught me many things which have helped me to be wiser each day. I am forever grateful to God for bringing Jamie into my life.

MP: That is truly special. It is lovely to hear the love and support that he provides you with. I would love to hear how your creations all began.

Pouono:  It all began when I was looking for a gift for Jamie on our one month of dating. When I met him, I knew that he was very special. When we started dating, he was living in Napier and I was living in Auckland so we sent each other gifts. I wanted to make him something unique for our one month (yup one month and I was head over heels for him). I noticed one of my Mum’s flower vase whilst sitting in the lounge which gave me an idea to create a bouquet of Forrero Rocher chocolates and I ended up sending it to him.

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MP:  That is creative indeed. It’s very beautiful.

Pouono:  Thank you. I believe that’s when I started exploring my creativity. Our first valentine we didn’t go out but instead we cooked and I made our own centrepiece. Jamie proposed and then we started planning for our wedding. We didn’t have much money as I was still an unemployed student so I had to up my creative thinking. I went on to personalising all our centrepieces, made our own cake stand, made all mine’s and my five bridesmaids flower bouquet and all the decorations for our head table. I realised from there that I was pretty good and creating stuff with my hands. So I continued to be an unemployed student when I started making Tongan traditional attire.

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Now when I make Tongan traditional attire, I feel as though I am sharing a part of myself, my gift, my passion and it makes me feel proud that I remain connected to my Tongan roots. Also, my husband Jamie is of European descent, and so for me to be able to create the traditional attire is also about sharing my Tongan culture with him and that he gets to experience and see it firsthand.

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MP: That is truly heart-warming. Jamie definitely brings out the best in you and your Tongan spirit is evidenced in the love for the creations that you produce. What is your creative process for your designs?

Pouono:  Well my Mother is a great source of inspiration in my creative process. She helps me to create the traditional Tongan wear for Pouono Krafts. I am grateful for her insight and experience.

My creative process for each design is pretty simple actually. To be honest, when I get orders I try to draw it but I never draw. What I do, I think about it before I go to sleep. I try and visualise everything in my head. By the time I wake up, usually I have a clear picture of what it is that I would like to make. However, when I start making the Tongan traditional wear, I keep making changes and at the end it’s totally different from what I had initially visualised. So that’s how it has worked for me.

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MP: You have so many beautiful designs. What is the feedback that you have received from your customers?

Pouono:  It has been overwhelming. How much people support and love what I do. I have had feedback that they have never seen my work before and that it is unique, it’s different, it’s new.

I even had my husband’s friends ask me to make a teunga tau’olunga (traditional Tongan attire for a Tongan female dance) for her wedding but she lives in Australia. I’ve been trying to find someone as good as your wife to make my teunga tau’olunga. Could you please ask her if she could please make my teunga tau’olunga. For me when I read that, I thought, what I am sure there is plenty of people. It’s amazing to hear people’s feedback and it’s encouraging. However, if I do receive negative feedback, I would have to accept it and build on that.

I shared some of my Tongan traditional attire on Facebook which began generating interest and now I am in the process of creating my own website. Hopefully in the next few years I will have my own shop.

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MP:  That is wonderful to hear. I believe that you will have your own shop one day. Anything is possible! May you please name an experience that you had that influenced you to become the person that you are today?

Pouono:  Hmmn. Let me think… Ah yes, there is a day that I will never forget. It was when I was a young girl and I was with my Grandmother while she was gardening at home. I heard her calling out to me but I didn’t respond so she kept calling and calling but I kept quiet hoping that she would stop. However, she kept on calling for me and so for the first time, I raised my voice out of frustration and I yelled out “What?”. Unbeknown to me, my Grandpa was inside the house and he heard me yell. Suddenly, he came out of the house and he called out to me to go over to see him. Immediately, I thought, ‘Oh no! I am in trouble!’. With a firm look on his face he told me “You should never raise your voice at your Grandma or anyone else”. His words pierced me and that day really got to me. From that day, I have never raised my voice at anyone. So that is an example of the many experiences that I have had which have helped me shape me into the person that I am today.

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MP: Aww that’s so cute and it’s special that your Grandfather’s teachings are still with you today.

Pouono:  Yes, his voice lingers in all that I do. I have not forgotten the many lessons that he has taught me. Sometimes when I am about to make a decision, my Grandfather’s voice comes to mind and it’s comforting for me to be able to pause and reflect on what he would say or do.

MP: Given that this week we celebrated 2016 Tongan Language Week, may you please share something about the Tongan culture that makes you proud?

Pouono:  Sure. I love how I grew up in a Tongan family and seeing how the Tongan culture grows. We have an all for one and one for all perspective on life. What I have come to experience is that it is always better to stand together. I really love that about our Tongan culture. That is something that I want to instil in my family. I have seen family members demonstrate their love through acts of kindness such as always giving and never expecting anything in return.

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MP:  I love that! Is there something that you wish to share in the Tongan language?

Pouono:  Yes. I would like to share a favourite Tongan proverb of mine. `Oua e lau e kafo kae lau lava – Ko e taha eni he paloveape `oku ou pukepuke ma`u pe `i he`eku fononga mo `eku feinga kotoa pe `oku fai. `Oku mahu`inga ke tau tuku taha pe `etau fakakaukau ki he ngaahi me’a lelei kuo tau a`usia ka tau tukuange `a e ngaahi me`a na`e `ikai ke lelei. ‘Oku mahu`inga ke tau puke pe `a e lelei he ko e lelei `oku ne ‘omi `a e fakalotolahi kiate kitautolu ke tau to e fai lelei lahi ange `i he kaha`u. Kapau te tau fakakaukau ma`u pe ki he ola kovi `i he`etau fononga, `e hanga `e he kovi `o fakalotosi’i kitautolu mo ne kapui `a lelei na`a tau te u fai mei hotau ngaahi `atamai.

MP:  Malo `aupito Pouono ho vahevahe mai `a e paloveape. `Oku hoko ia ko e fakalotolahi kiate au pea mo hoku ngaahi faka`amu ki he kaha`u. Is there a piece of advice that you would like to share with the younger generation?

Pouono:  Yes, my advice for the younger generation is to not take things for granted. Take every opportunity as they come. Don’t give up on your dreams. If you really want it then go out there and make it happen. You will encounter negativity and that’s ok. You just believe in yourself and you will get to anywhere you want to go.

From my experiences, I know that if I want this to be successful then I need to put in the work, believe in myself and keep going. My husband always encourages me to stay positive and he reminds me not to dwell on the negatives. So I try and keep a positive mindset and surround yourself with people who will encourage and support you. I think that is important.

MP: Is there anything that you would like to add?

Pouono:  Yes, I believe that I got to where I am now because of God’s grace. I think if it wasn’t for God I would be wandering down another path. For me, faith got me to where I am and it has given me so much joy and happiness. Giving everything to God was the best thing that I have ever done.

If you believe in God but things may seem like it’s not working in the way that you think it should, continue to have faith and just hand it all over to God. He works in mysterious ways. Allow Him to take the lead. When you are at a point in your life where you have reached success, you look back and realise that God was working through your life. You realise that this is where you are meant to be.

MP: Amen! Thank you Pouono for your time and for sharing aspects of your journey. You truly embody the Tongan spirit and you share this beautifully with many around you. I am blessed to have cross paths with you. Wishing you all the very best for all your future endeavours. Malo `aupito and `ofa lahi atu xox

Pouono: Likewise Maryanne. Thank you so much for the opportunity to share my story. I am very grateful. God bless and `ofa lahi atu.

the-wickhams

To connect with Pouono on her Pouono Krafts Facebook page, please click on the link below:

Pouono Krafts

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