Community Capability and Resilience

Reverend Anitoni Misa, Church Minister EFKS Upper Harbour, knows the importance of serving their local Pacific communities by co-ordinating budgeting initiatives encouraging families to learn to grow their own vegetables in their own backyards


Nationwide lockdowns to stop the spread of Covid-19 throughout 2020 took more than its toll for Pacific communities. Money’s scarce and the ongoing threat of another pandemic wave leaves a lingering threat on a global scale.

Reverend Anitoni Misa says when the Covid-19 epidemic struck throughout 2020, their communities and families initially struggled to make ends meet during the lockdown.

L-R: Naomi Misa, Anitoni Misa, A’lo Enosa, Seupule Yosta, Leulusoo Mata, Tupuola Levi Falealili

Anxiety levels across the nation were high and Pacific communities were often the most vulnerable due to the socio-economic environment. Besides setting priorities such as learning to create a manageable budget, the Reverend wanted solutions to help their families that wouldn’t break the bank.

“Our church youth group have a session every Sunday evening," says Youth President Mr Alo Enosa, "where we set priorities like how to budget and how to grow our own food ourselves."

Anitoni Misa Upper Harbour Church Minister

Church secretary Mr Tupuola Levi says that overall, Pasifika are generally on lower incomes compared to the average New Zealander.

"Some families have members who are not working fulltime, only part-time or sometimes not at all,” agrees Anitoni, who joined the Ministry in February 2019.

Seupule Yosta and wife Ata and their garden

The church successfully applied for assistance through the Ministry of Social Development’s Community Capability and Resilience Fund.

Community meetings were held every Sunday after church services to discuss future plans to help their respective families.

Providing training for all parents on how to budget and set priorities was also included. A grant was distributed to each family.

Reverend Misa says the grant for the 15 families the church supports is to help all of them to build their own food and flower garden. Some of the church members are responsible for helping out with the planting. The grant will also be used to buy tools and protective health and safety equipment for the project.

“We offer many services to our Pacific families and meet every Sunday setting priorities, like how to budget, prepare, grow your own food and help with their own food garden,” says Reverend Misa. “Such issues are discussed at a church session every Sunday from 5-7pm, with a lot being raised by our youth regarding the Covid-19 pandemic. It raises the question among our youth about how we can help our families, especially our elders. We have low incomes, so how can we do it?

“It was our youth who came with this initiative and we then had an open discussion with the families about how to budget. Some members were not working fulltime, so the families were losing money. So, what could we do? We provided training for all 15 parents on how to budget self-preparation with a food garden at all of our homes,” recalls Rev Misa.

L-R: Tupuola Levi Falealili, Leulusoo Mata, Seupule Yosta, Saeli Tausili, A’lo Enosa, Anitoni Misa, Naomi Misa

“A grant will be distributed to each family to help establish a food garden around the house to save money. It will be distributed to each of the families we support, with some of the church members being responsible for helping out with the planting,” he says.

“Our committee spent four weeks checking each garden across West Auckland verifying their work, which enables them to apply their budget and set their priorities."

Popular vegetables included tomatoes, taro and cabbages.

“The funding cannot be used for buying things like cigarettes or alcohol. We also don’t even want them to eat unhealthy food like takeaways or fizzy drinks, which aren’t good for you, anyway,” he says.

“Having experienced lockdowns throughout 2020 during Covid-19, we learnt to adapt to the seasonal changes when it came to planting.”

Mulitalo Toe, the daughter of the Church Secretary presenting their garden in the bottom left image.

Once the team began adopting healthier initiatives by eating better, we began to feel better,” he adds.

“We also ended up saving money. Instead of buying lavish bouquets of flowers that cost up to $300, our people started growing their own flowers on their own pieces of land.”

Ioka and his garden

Rev Misa noticed the more positive aspects relating to his families' daily routines.

“We now appreciate the little things, like going outside for a walk and fresh air in nature and all of our beautiful parks and gardens.”

EFKS Upper Harbour church secretary Tupuola Levi Falealili 

In this video EFKS Upper Harbour church secretary Tupuola Levi Falealili talks about the initiatives encouraging families to learn to grow their own vegetables in their own backyards. He says the initiative helps families not only bond while providing sustenance but also teaches them to live harmoniously by working together. He encourages other communities and churches to do the same as it promotes healthy wellbeing for families physically, mentally and spiritually in Christ. He thanks MSD for enabling the project to go ahead, and thanks all those involved. 


Pasefika Proud Pathways for Change 2019-2023 Pacific families and communities are safe, resilient and enjoy wellbeing. 

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Pasefika Proud is a social change movement – ‘by Pacific for Pacific’ – to boost wellbeing for Pacific families and transform attitudes, behaviours and norms that enable violence. Our name and strapline embody our strengths-based, community-led approach:

Pasefika Proud: Our Families, Our People, Our Responsibility