Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Kava club and Hamilton charity help dreams come true for local Tongans

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

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John Pulu | Presenter/ Reporter/Director

A community initiative started at a local Tongan kava club is helping members purchase a home.

There’s no place like home for ‘Etuate Teumohenga and his mother.

The 29-year-old has just purchased his first home in Hamilton, moving into the three bedroom house earlier this year.

“I’m very happy and proud just to actually get the house, I did a lot of sacrifices to get here,” ‘Etuate says.

“It’s a big step so I guess it’s important and I’m hoping in the future other people will follow my footsteps and try and get a house especially us Tongans.”

It was ‘Etuate’s late father’s dream for them to have their own place after years of renting. His mother Seutāsia is happy that it is finally a reality.

Speaking in Tongan, she says, “Now, moving into our own home, I have a new lease on life. I am more independent and I can do my own thing without feeling obligated to anything.”

New homeowners from left Seutāsia and her son ‘Etuate Teumohenga
New homeowners from left Seutāsia and her son ‘Etuate Teumohenga

Mefi Naufahu is the chairman of the Waikato Tongan Community Charity Trust which helped the Teumohenga family into their new home. He’s well aware of the issues around the lack of home ownership.

“Back in Tonga I always wonder, why did my great grandfather and my grandfather and my dad were able to build a house out of nothing?” Naufahu says.

“Over here we come down, [there’s] money here but we can’t build a house, we can’t own a home and always, I thought, go back to the idea, it can be done.”

Naufahu also belongs to a Tongan kava club where members gather each week to enjoy a beverage and each other’s company, but here they also put money away towards a new home for its members.

“We saw the price of houses it’s gone up and we made a decision with our group, those members who want to come in, they must commit themselves to save $300 minimum every week,” he says.

“When that money matures, they organise with banks and your share goes straight to that.”

The initiative has been running for over 10 years at the Vakai Atu club in the Waikato and so far, they have been able to help buy eight homes with more on the way.

Vakai Atu kava club, Hamilton. Photo: Provided

One of the soon to be homeowners is Tu’amelie Ngū who says the club is more than just about drinking kava.

“We talk about things to help us, the new families and it’s important because they aren’t helping just their families but they help and empower us to work together,” he says.

It’s that community spirit that keeps the Tongan families here close and with the rising cost of living, develop new initiatives to help their community.

Another kava club, ‘Amanaki Lelei, received funding to provide large cooking pots, vehicle trailers and a portable freezer for families to use free of charge when they have big events such as funerals, birthdays and weddings.

The person behind this project ‘Unaloto Palefau is proud to help his community.

“This project, since it started around five months ago, has helped more than 200 people that have used this equipment,” he says.

It’s neighbour helping neighbour just like in the islands and Naufahu says a lot can be learnt from the Pacific way of life.

“We live in a communal society at home and over here, to do it by ourselves will be very hard and difficult, unless you are so strong,” he says.

“But to bring that concept from the islands and do it here, it can be done.”

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