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Emeline Afeaki-Mafile’o – Growing From Your Roots

Emeline Afeaki-Mafile’o – Growing From Your Roots

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Emeline Afeaki-Mafile’o – Growing From Your Roots

... creating a Pacific style of mentoring programmes for young people in South Auckland, and running a fair trade coffee growing business in Tonga.
Emeline Afeaki-Mafile’o – Growing From Your Roots

... creating a Pacific style of mentoring programmes for young people in South Auckland, and running a fair trade coffee growing business in Tonga.

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Published by: How Communities Heal on Sep 08, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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 / The New Zealand Social Entrepreneur Fellowship
Emeline Aeaki-Mafle’o has created
a unique Pasifka approach tomentoring young people that is especially adapted to migrant ami-lies. She has established an enterprise that employs a team o youngPasifka people to provide mentoring support and lieskills educationto hundreds o young students in South Auckland.
Two out o every fve children born in the Auckland area are rom Pasifka ethnic groups,o which the six major groups include Samoan, Cook Island, Tongan, Fijian, Niuean andTokelauan. 60% o these people were born in New Zealand, and by 2026 they will make up12% o New Zealand’s workorce.Unortunately these Pasifka people have the lowest qualifcation levels o any ethnicgroup in the country. This is related to the high percentage o Pasifka young people wholeave school with little or no ormal attainment. Mentoring is a way to help address thesegaps in achievement, and it also helps create a bridge rom the opportunities and resourceso schools to the lives o local amilies and their communities.Aeaki-Mafle’o points out that in a country where the majority o European people aregetting older, it is the Pasifka groups who have the youthul population: “They will grow tobecome the uture earners and taxpayers o this country. We need to invest in the educationand development o these young people now … so that they can make their ullest contribu-tion to the well-being o New Zealand.”Aeaki-Mafle’o is a New Zealand-born Tongan (Koloo’ou and Ha’apai), Samoan(Falea and Savelalo) and Maori (Ngati Awa). She was raised in the Mangere suburb oSouth Auckland, and has been involved in youth work in the area since the age o 19. Sheworked with various social service agencies as she studied and completed three degrees —
Emeline Aeaki-Male’o
 / Growing From Your Roots
2a Bachelor o Social Work (with honours), a postgraduate Diploma in Social Sciences, and aMasters o Philosophy in Social Policy.At the age o 25, Aeaki-Mafle’o began
 Afrming Women,
a new support services agencythat would connect local young women with role models who could mentor and educatethem on various lie skills. In particular, Aeaki-Mafle’o targeted those young women whowere seen as being “at-risk” because they were identifed as being involved in teenage pros-titution or had suicidal tendencies. She knows that every young person has potential, and hergoal is to ensure that every one o them can connect with an adult who would be a positiveinuence in helping to achieve that potential.In the early days o her agency, Aeaki-Mafle’o ran the servicesrom a two-bedroom unit (belonging to a grand-aunt) in Papatoetoe.
She survived without government unding, relying instead on dona-tions and church tithes.
 Afrming Women
proved successul andgained attention, and government contracts soon ollowed.The agency expanded its services to also include mentoring toyoung men, and children, and the business name was changed to
 Afrming Works.
Aeaki-Mafle’o moved into a larger Papatoetoehome in order to accommodate her growing team o Pasifka menand women who had been employed as mentors. Within a short time, over 400 young stu-dents each year were participating in an
 Afrming Works
mentoring programme in a SouthAuckland school.Mentoring is the process o helping young people achieve wellbeing as they grow intoadulthood. The aim o mentoring is holistic personal development which supports physical,emotional, mental, and spiritual wellbeing, and osters healthy amily, community and culturalrelationships.The mentoring process reaches into areas that are not usually accessed by our ormaleducation system. It helps young people establish goals and learning journeys that are woveninto a wider context o their communities and cultures.In the Pacifc, the traditional way that young people have been mentored is in the contexto large amilies and community collectiveness. But, to a New Zealand-born generation, theiramilies are aced with completely new challenges which put considerable strain on thesetraditional bonds. They need to know how to navigate between two worlds and two sets oexpectations — the Pālagi (European majority) world and the Pasifka world o their ances-tral cultures.Aeaki-Mafle’o: “As Pasifka people, we share commonalities that set us apart, such as ourreligious and amily belies, our identifcation with culture, our inherently collective response,and our shared history o migration. We have also attempted to import the values and princi-ples ound in our home cultures to New Zealand, in order to keep our amilies healthy.“The Pālagi majority seems to expect that we should have let part o ourselves and ourculture back in the islands, making sacrifces so that our children could ft in. Pasifka youthhave to deal with a lot o peer pressure, and the stereotypes o media. There is sometimes a
 / The New Zealand Social Entrepreneur Fellowship
3real absence o amily because their parents are trying to meet the demanding living stand-ards o amilies in New Zealand, as well as oten sending money back to the islands wherethey have ongoing responsibilities.“Cultural identity provides an awesome sense o belonging, but it is important to realisethat growing into adulthood involves many areas o well-being. Mentoring is a way that wecan make sure our kids are well in every area.”It was rom reecting on her own journey o exploration into sel, cultural and commu-nity identity that led Aeaki-Mafle’o to create the innovative
 Afrming Works
approach tomentoring.A major inuence, while growing up, was attending an English-speaking, predominantlyPacifc Island church. The dominant Pasifka cultures within the congregation included herown Tongan culture, which taught her “… to unashamedly identiy mysel as a product oTongan communality, and as a descendant o the Pacifc’s oldest kingdom.”Her main mentor and role model throughout her lie has been her paternal grandmother,Emeline Francis Aeaki. This grandmother was an English-Samoan woman who marrieda Tongan husband and had twelve children. She then let Tonga and emigrated to NewZealand, worked three jobs, and brought all her children and her husband out to settle inSouth Auckland.Aeaki-Mafle’o: “My grandma has always been my motivation, partly because I am namedater her and also because i I made a name or mysel, I elt she would be proud and hon-oured. She was one o those ladies that, even though she had over sixty grandchildren,twenty great grand-children and three great-great-grandchildren, she managed to make youeel you were her avourite. That’s how I try to make all my young people in my programmeseel: special.”
 Afrming Works
has created a
collective model 
o mentoring
which is designed tosupport the holistic development o any young person, irrespective o their ethnicity. The
 Afrming Works
mentor assesses the needs o the young people and organises the encour-agement and activities designed to bring into ullness the talents and skills o each individual.
Emeline Aeaki-Male’o presenting her social innovationworkshop at the NZSEF Retreat 

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