The PACIFICA Women of Influence – Dare to Dream event | A Personal Reflection

On Thursday 21st June 2012, the Auckland Central Branch of P.A.C.I.F.I.C.A (Pacific Allied (Womens) Council Inspires Faith in Ideals Concerning All) hosted our annual Women of Influence event that evening. In the lead up to this event, the President of the Auckland Central Branch, Sina Wendt-Moore explained; “To mark the 2012 Sir Peter Blake Leadership Week, our annual celebration of PACIFICA “Women of Influence” enables us to hear from successful women from across the generations and sectors of our community and society.  The theme of the Leadership Week is: Dare to Dream….Everyone has a dream, the only difference is that some of us make them happen – some people actually Dare to Dream.” And what a truly inspirational evening it was!  (Photo Above:President of the Auckland Central Branch, Sina Wendt-Moore and life-long member of PACIFICA, Laurel. Photo Below: Some of the members of the Auckland Central Branch, PACIFICA).

As of the beginning of this year, I became one of the new members of PACIFICA after attending the National PACIFICA conference (read more about that HERE). For this particular event PACIFICA Women of Influence – Dare to Dream I was one of the guest speakers which was exciting! I want to take this opportunity to share my personal reflection about this event and also share parts of my presentation with the hope to encourage you as the reader to Dare to Dream. Enjoy! 😉

Pasifika pride was prominent at this event with the beautiful vibrant colours that were adorned by the Auckland Central Branch team of PACIFICA. Tables were covered by Pasifika designed table cloths which seated 10 people at each table and with over 100 attendees the atmosphere was filled with excitement and laughter. The tantalizing spread served to please all kinds of Pasifika palettes and to set the scene the event was hosted at the Fale Pasifika (which bears the shape of a giant traditional Samoan meeting house and inside the Fale Pasifika the symmetrical lashings bind the high wooden beams that were created by Tongan artist Filipe Tohi using brown and black coconut coir from Fiji). The Fale Pasifika is situated on the city campus of The University of Auckland.

Photo: 7 out of 9 speakers for the event. From the left, Jannitta Pilisi, Fatima Leung-Wai (front), Donna Rose Addis, Hilda Faasalele, Yolande Ah Chong, Yvonne Kainuku-Walsh and myself.

The eclectic array of speakers for this event included; Donna Rose Addis, a neuroscientist, lecturer and winner of the 2010 Prime Minister’s MacDiarmid Emerging Scientist Prize; Jannitta Pilisi, an entrepreneurial leader who has recently launched a women’s leadership project in Niue; Hilda Fa’asalele, a senior leader in health who is developing innovative programmes that are improving the health services to Pacific people; Lope Ginnen, her work as a lawyer (The University of Auckland graduate), and state sector, NGO director is squarely focussed on the wellbeing of young children, families; Yolande Ah Chong, consummate broadcaster on Radio 531pi and comedic diva whose wit, contagious positivity and larger than life personality makes us all look for the best in life; Vilimaina Davu, is a Fijian and New Zealand netball player, who has represented both countries in international netball as a goal keeper. She has also played basketball at an international level; Yvonne Kainuku-Walsh, runs her own business, is working towards her Masters in population-based health, engages in volunteer work for youth in South Auckland; Fatima Leung-Wai, an electrical engineer, Zumba fitness entrepreneur, and dedicated University of Auckland mentor to the next generation of Pacific engineers and myself.  

The Fale Pasifika was filled with messages of encouragement, inspiration and empowerment which were delivered by the speakers by way of Pecha Kucha style presentation. Pecha Kucha is an innovative style of presentation which consists of 20 slides with photos displayed on each slide (preferably with no words) and the presenter must only spend 20 seconds talking on each slide (the slides would change automatically after every 20 seconds). For each speaker, including myself, this was a new and fun challenge as we only had 6 minutes and 40 seconds to deliver our presentation. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience!

The audience watched on with great admiration as each speaker shared their reflections about their journeys. Some of which are pioneers in their family as well as their professional career. The speakers came from different cultural backgrounds and are currently engaged in different professional disciplines but the commonality across all presentations, which was consistently conveyed, was the gratitude expressed towards their families members and the influential people that had made a difference in their lives. The speakers displayed their passion for their field of interest, their love for their families and Pasifika communities and their gratitude for the opportunities that they have received as they achieved different milestones in their lives. I was left in awe of ALL the women that spoke that evening. I walked away feeling inspired and feeling even more determined to continue forth with my endeavours. I am grateful to all of the women for their examples of love, determination, hardwork, perseverance, drive and success. It was such an honour to be able to meet most of the guest speakers for the first time that night. It was lovely to also reconnect with Pasifika women that I had not seen in a short while.

When I had received the invitation from the Presdient of the Auckland Central Branch of PACIFICA, Sina Wendt-Moore, to speak at this event, I was utterly grateful. I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to Sina for providing me with this wonderful opportunity to share about my journey as a young Tongan woman born and raised here in Auckland, New Zealand. I felt privileged and honoured to have been invited to speak alongside such a phenomenal group of Pasifika women. (Photo: Sina Wendt-Moore with her daughter, Isabella).

When it was my turn to speak that evening, I had acknowledged God first and foremost for His love, grace and mercy which had enabled us to gather at the Fale Pasifika that evening. I then proceeded to acknowledge that my parents and the generations before them were born and raised in the villages of Vaini, Tongatapu and Tefisi, Vava’u and that my younger sister and I were born and raised here in Auckland, New Zealand. When I had presented, I wore a kiekie (a traditional Tongan attire worn around my waist) and I shared a photo of the Tongan coat of arms to demonstrate my Tongan pride. I shared with the audience members that growing up I had always kept a prayer journal and on July 6th 2001, I had made a journal entry which listed my dreams. One of those dreams was to attain a Master of Education and the other dream was to “hopefully” attain a PhD in Education.  I firmly believe that our goals and aspirations come to life the very moment that we begin to work towards it. So, 10 years ago, my teaching career began in South Auckland and it was there that my passion for working with Pasifika children evolved and it was also then that my interest in early literacy development for Pasifika children was birthed.

As the years went by, part one of my dream that was written in my journal back in 2001 came to fruition when I graduated from The University of Auckland with my Masters in Education (Honours). Amazingly enough, part two of my dream came to life when two amazing people, Dr Meaola Amituanai-Toloa and Professor Stuart McNaughton took a leap of faith and became my research supervisors for my PhD in Education at The University of Auckland. (Photo Above: Two of my close friends who had attended the event, Serra Petaia and Valenitina Vaihu. They have walked beside me throughout my journey for over 10 years now. I am truly grateful for their love, support and encouragement.)

Furthermore, I talked about my journey with poetry writing and my involvement with the South Auckland Poets Collective which has been great so far.  In my presentation slide, I had a set of photos of a group Pasifika Authors and Poets who have inspired me to strive forward with that dream. One of those Authors was there on the night, Lani Wendt-Young (as shown in the photo on the left). She has been of wonderful encouragement and for that I am grateful.

Additionally, I mentioned the works with Pasifika children and youth in which I have engaged with over the years and I highlighted the importance of us as adults reaching out to the younger generation and helping them forward with their dreams.

Photo: Radio 531 pi host, Yolande Ah Chong and I. A strong hearted woman, a sister, a friend. She has supported me when I have needed it. I admire her and the work that she does for our Pasifika communities in New Zealand. She was one of the guest speakers on the evening and she had the entire audience in fits of laughter. Her journey is inspirational!

Given the theme for the event was “Dare to Dream”, I had taken the word DREAM and placed it as an acronym in my Pecha Kucha presentation as a way of reminding audience members that the journey towards any dream will not always be an easy path and that it requires a lot of heart and will power to keep striving forth. The acronym are as follows; D = Determination, R = Resilience, E = Excellence, A = Assistance and M = Make it happen! The following illustrates the last 5 slides of my Pecha Kucha presentation and the notes that accompanied each slide:

D = Determination: My parents have been and still are the biggest influences in my life. Much like many Pasifika families, my parents were determined people who had migrated to New Zealand from Tonga for a better future. It is because of my parents sacrifices, their hardwork and their prayers that I remain determined today.

R = Resilience: My journey so far has had its ups and downs. I have had to learn from my failures, overcome obstacles and I have had to rise above adversity. These experiences have helped shaped me as a person and I have learnt to become resilient. I had used this photo (as shown above) to convey the message that sometimes your journey towards your dreams can be difficult and other times it may feel like you are walking alone but the important thing to develop is resilience when setbacks occur and to never fail to get back up and persevere.

E = Excellence:  In everything that I do, I try and do it to the best of my capabilities. Being focused and believing in myself are important aspects in order for me to excel in the path that I am on today. The photo on this slide (as shown above) was used to convey the message that in order to strive for excellence and to fulfil your dream, you must put in the time and effort to work towards it. The achievement of any goal/dream requires self-discipline.

A = Assistance:  In the same way that many people have helped me along in my journey, I want to give back to the younger generation as well as our Pasifika communities. In my journey, I have had to seek for assistance and in the same light I have provided assistance for others.  As some of you may recognise from previous blog posts, the young girl in this photo is my niece Tupou Neiufi. I used her photo to represent the younger generation as a reminder for us as adults that they too need our assistance to fufil their dreams. As I believe, success is never achieved alone.

M = Make it happen:  Through prayer, by being determined, by remaining resilient, by striving for excellence, by asking and providing assistance; I truly believe that these are elements which will help enable us all to fulfil our dreams!   As I continue to work towards fulfilling my dreams, I encourage you to make your dreams become a reality and if you are already living your dreams, extend your helping hands to the next generation and help them fulfil their dreams. Be bold! Be courageous! Be YOU!

At the end of the evening, Sina Wendt-Moore had invited me back up to the front to share my poem A Woman of Strength. It was a huge privilege and an honour for me to have been included in the line up of speakers. I am very grateful to Sina Wendt-Moore and the Auckland Central Branch team for organising and hosting such an empowering and inspiring evening for all and for providing me with the wonderful opportunity to share a snippet of my journey. The Pecha Kucha style of presentation was an awesome experience.  I am definitely humbled. What a blessing indeed! I conclude this personal reflection with a slideshow of photos that were taken by P.A.C.F.I.C.A on the evening.

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You can visit P.A.C.I.F.I.C.A’s facebook page HERE.

P.A.C.I.F.I.C.A Inc stands for Pacific Allied (Womens) Council Inspires Faith in Ideals Concerning All.  P.A.C.I.F.I.C.A Inc is incorporated as a national non government organisation (NGO) for Pacific women living in Aotearoa (New Zealand). It was established as a result of a Pacific womens’ conference held in Auckland in 1976 and became an incorporated society in 1977. All women are eligible to become members of P.A.C.I.F.I.C.A irrespective of background, faith and ethnicity – as long as they agree to support and abide by the aims and objectives of the organisation. For more information on the objectives please visit their official website:




Moana Leilua


  1. Thank you Maryanne for sharing this empowering event, just reading through and gaining insight about your speech was inspirational and beautiful. I was teary eyed too, when you mentioned you had a picture of your parents and spoke about how they were and continue to be the determining factor of your success. Ofa lahi atu, God Bless.

  2. A beautiful & inspirational event! The influences of each and every woman truly shows and captures the essence of the acronym of D.R.E.A.M – all of which incorporates stages in their lives from beginnings to their current accomplishments! The message of of your Pecha Style presentation can apply to everyone. Each letter can also be represent a stage in everyone’s lives… Definitely a great message and inspiring to us all to keep peservering, believing, never giving up, and overcoming obstacles to get where God has planned for them to be… Keep going and keep shining! Alofa Tele Atu xoxo

    1. Hi Ralph, your visit and comment it very much appreciated. Every woman that spoke that night was truly inspirational and I admire them all. Thank you for your words of encouragement. I appreciate it very much. Have a great week. Keep up the great work that you do! ‘Ofa lahi atu xox

  3. You continue to make not only your family and friends proud, but also Tongan women all over the world. You are a wonderful role model to people young and old. 10 years ago you had a dream, in a couple of months, you will achieve the goal and dream that you had set. I take my hat off to you, there have been many obstacles that have been thrown at you over the years, but you always overcame those obstacles, and you continue to remain on that path to achieving your dream. I absolutely love your DREAM acronym D = Determination, R = Resilience, E = Excellence, A = Assistance and M = Make it happen! Absolutely loved your Pecha Kucha presentation, thank you for sharing it with me. You had done a fantastic job with it. Not long to go sis, keep up the awesome work that you do. You will see all the blessings in return for all the sacrifices you have made. Continue to hold your head up high and be proud of yourself, you have come this far because of all YOUR hardwork and determination. Yes you have a lot of support, but at the end of the day YOU were the one that did all the work. May god continue to guide you on your journey in life and continue to shower you with many more blessings, ofa lahi atu xo

    1. Hi Sis, thank you so much! I truly appreciate your love and support over the years. The evening was lovely and it was indeed very empowering! I wish you were there. You would have loved it! Hopefully you will be able to attend the next event. Many thanks for your feedback and your continuous encouragement. ‘Ofa lahi atu xox

    1. Hi Bishop, thank you for your kind words. I am grateful unto God for His blessings in my life. I believe that you have gifts and talents that exceed mine. Continue to be wonderful leader. God bless you abundantly xox

    1. Thank you so much Elizabeth. I appreciate your kind words especially coming from you! Many thanks for stopping by. Continue to inspire many with your great works. God bless xox

  4. I visited your website a couple of days ago when I googled Tonga Emancipation Day and have been back many times. I look forward to coming back to learn more. You are truly inspirational, practical and offer sensible advice and guidance to your audience and followers. Thank you. Keep up the good work.

    1. Thank you Stephen. I am grateful for your words of encouragement and support. Thank you for reading and I am glad that you enjoy the content. My apologies about the delay in reply. Things have been quite busy. Have a fab week. Malo ‘aupito. 🙂

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