Creating strong resilient families
The Siaola Famili Lelei initiative has been recognised by Police for their work towards alleviating family violence and child abuse amongst their Tongan communities. Operating under the Vahefonua Tonga Methodist Mission Charitable Trust umbrella, Siaola is a joint programme with the NZ Police, Pasefika Proud and other key agencies.
Reverend Tevita Finau and executive director of Siaola Kathleen Tuai-Ta’ufo’ou received the Counties Manukau District Commanders NZ Police Award on behalf of the team of volunteers who designed and implemented the Famili Lelei programmes.
“The NZ police acknowledged all the good work of the community and the police officers on a regular basis,” says Kathleen.
“We’ve been working closely with police and the Pasefika Proud campaign in the areas of child abuse and family violence.”
From the partnership Siaola has with the NZ Police and Pasefika Proud, police officers were invited to Tongan churches to speak about family violence prevention and child protection.
Siaola runs a famili lelei programme, a parenting programme stemming from the Tongan community’s feedback to produce tools and resources to build safer and more resilient families.
The famili lelei programme is run in a retreat-type setting for the whole family, parents, carers and their children.
Parents work with Tongan counsellors in a safe way, and a specific programme has also been developed just for the kids.
“When we run the programme we address areas like child abuse and family violence in a way that’s culturally sensitive,” she says.
“We use positive messaging about what makes us famili lelei (good families), resilient and thriving families.”
Kathleen says it’s important that their service is faith-based.
“Statistics show that a vast majority of our Tongan community are religious, and therefore Siaola tailors programmes to their needs.”
In spite of this Kathleen says that, along with church leaders, community leaders in general are pivotal to supporting Tongan families to become resilient and successful in their homes.
“The families who have completed the programme have reported notable, positive changes within their relationships,” says Kathleen.
“Parents are able to communicate better with their children and the relationships between husbands and wives are healthier.”
One mother expressed gratitude for the programme.
“I’m so grateful for the programme … I’ve learnt so much about my family and myself,” she says.
“It’s brought my husband and I closer. My children, who are young adults, are able to communicate with us better now and my younger children are happier.”
Working towards their mission of creating stronger, more resilient families, Siaola also produced two short video clips in December 2016 and January 2017 that went viral upon their release.
The first was a Christmas video promoting safer families during the holidays. The second focused on family violence prevention and child protection, with help from Tongan families, leaders and police officers.
Vahefonua Tonga o Aotearoa Methodist Mission (SIAOLA) is a Social Service constituted by Vahefonua O Aotearoa, under the auspices of the Methodist Church of New Zealand. The Trust is an active member of the Methodist Mission of Aotearoa (MMA) which is now being reconstituted as the Methodist Alliance. The Methodist Missions, parish and community-based social services and trusts throughout New Zealand come under one vision, ‘A just and inclusive society in which all people flourish’ and the overall Methodist Church of New Zealand’s 10-year plan, ‘Let the Children Live’. Visit the Siaola Facebook page for more (external link)