Last night the graduation event for the South Auckland high school students that were involved in the Tupu’anga (to grow from your roots) mentoring programme took place at the Communnity Cafe. Tupu’anga is Affirming Works’ main mentoring programme which delivers Year 11-13 students (sophomores to seniors) with support for retention in school, tools to grow in character and opportunities for bridging them into post-education, tertiary study or better workplace environments.
I was honoured to receive an invitation from the founder of Affirming Works, Emeline Afeaki-Mafile’o (my cousin), to be a guest speaker for the Tupu’anga graduation event alongside Dream Centre’s Youth Pastor Jeremy Tauti. It was a full house last night. The Tupu’anga youth mentors Yvonne Taufa, Tonga Vaea and Quincy Filiga began the night by establishing a wonderful platform which made for a truly heart-warming event. Special guest performers included the talented music artists Cydel and TJ and also the inspiring spoken word artist Dietrich Soakai. Each person that spoke and/or performed last night brought forth a different element of passion and sincerity in their message of encouragement for the Tupu’anga graduates. It created an atmosphere of gratitude with the acknowledgement of God’s grace and the sacrifices that each of our families and ancestors have made before us. Emeline Afeaki-Mafile’o concluded the formalities of the graduation event with a heart-felt speech acknowledging the hands of help that have gone unseen. In addition, she reminded the students of how proud everyone were of them and that Tupu’anga (and Affirming Works) will always be a system of support for them in the years ahead. A delicious Pasifika dinner was served thereafter.
It was a special graduation event of which I was humbled and honoured to witness. Seeing the young people last night receive their certificates symbolised the tremendous amount of love and support that they have behind them. They have much to be excited about in the years ahead as they have plenty of options to choose from in the pursuit of their dreams.
When the formalities of the graduation event came to a close the Open Mic Night followed. As explained in a previous blog post (view on this link here: Open Mic Night Blog Post), the Open Mic Night is a community initiative which began in July 2012 offering a creative space for youth to share their talents in music, spoken word poetry and more. Last night was the finale for 2013. This meant the graduates and their family members were able to enjoy the remainder of the evening celebrating with musicians from within and around the community. In amongst the music artists that were included for the Open Mic night were the Midnight Trips, Giant Killa and Tonga Vaea. People were up and out of their seats dancing the night away. It was a great way to end the graduation event.
One of the gifts that I received last night was a book entitled “How Communities Heal: Stories of Social Innovation and Social Change” by Vivian Hutchinson and the New Zealand Social Entrepreneur Fellowship. In this book, Emeline Afeaki-Mafile’o is featured as one of the social entrepreneurs who are bringing insight, entrepreneurship and practical hope to our New Zealand communities. I recommend it.
Emeline’s ingenuity and heart have brought forth a unique Pasifika approach to mentoring young people. Over the past 12 years, Affirming Works has provided mentoring support and lifeskills education to thousands of young students in South Auckland which is remarkable. Recently, Emeline won the inaugural New Zealand Women of Influence award for the Community Service and Social Enterprise category. Pacific Island Affairs Minister Hekia Parata congratulated Emeline by saying “By supporting these students to realise their personal potential and encouraing them to become actively involved in their local communities, Mrs Afeaki-Mafile’o is helping develop young people who will be able to make the fullest contribution to New Zealand that they can.” Emeline’s journey is truly inspiring. She does not only lead and teach about social change but she lives and breathes it. Her humility shines through and through.
Once again, I would like to extend my congratulations to the 2013 Tupu’anga graduates and the wonderful team of Pasifika superheroes behind them. Wishing you all the very best for 2014 and beyond!
In closing, here is Dietrich Soakai’s spoken word piece which he performed in conclusion to my speech last night. This piece is one of my faves from Dee. Enjoy!
Affirming Works: http://www.affirming.org.nz/
Tupu’anga Coffee: http://www.tupuanga.com/
Community Cafe: https://www.facebook.com/CommunityCafeOtahuhu?fref=ts