Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

‘I wanted a way to give back to the community’ – Meals on Wheels volunteer driver Salesi Lelaulu

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John Pulu | Presenter/ Reporter/Director

Food delivery continues to offer a vital service for vulnerable people but could do with more drivers especially in South Auckland.

Salesi Lelaulu volunteers for Meals on wheels, a service delivering food to people who are unable to cook for themselves.

“I wanted a way to give back to the community, a way that I would add some sort of value to the community and Meals on Wheels seem to be the perfect fit,” Lelaulu says.

The service is run by the New Zealand Red Cross and Salesi jumped on board in 2022 to deliver in the Māngere and Papatoetoe area. When he’s not behind the wheel he works as a Barfoot and Thompson agent. 

Every fortnight he’s going from door to door handing out nutritious meals.

“I wish I had more time every time I see them, I wish there was more time to be able to have a chat because for some it’s that human interaction that they miss out on so it’s quite good but yeah it’s very heart warming,” he added.

Meals on wheels started in the 1950s in North Canterbury during a gas, coal and electricity shortage. 

Neighbours would look out for those in their communities who needed extra assistance. It has grown over time to offer the service all over the country but the love and appreciation from recipients hasn’t changed.

One elderly recipient said, “oh (I) feel like somebody cares for me, that’s a nice feeling somebody comes here to bring you a meal.”

Currently around 13,600 meals are delivered every week around the country, that’s over 700,000 meals a year.

The Red Cross needs more volunteers in the South Auckland area and local coordinator Moana Petero says she hopes more people can lend a hand.

“We are looking for 70 volunteers and we are looking for drivers in the Mt Wellington right through to Māngere areas to do deliveries,” she says. 

“We say we are wanting 70 volunteers but we actually need more and that would help.”

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