Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air
Teaching basic skills and knowledge to children on how to use money has been the responsibility of one Samoan man for over 11 years.
Vane Sopoaga from Porirua Wellington has entered 6,000 classrooms and taught financial literacy to over 163,000 students as part of the ASB Getwise program. The workshop is delivered all over Aotearoa and focuses on teaching children how to save, spend and use their money.
Sopoaga, a performing arts major, remembers his first days teaching in front of primary school children. “I was super nervous and anxious because I had to learn all these scripts and present it. But my performing arts background kicked in and I was able to make that connection with the kids.”
The Getwise Program is funded by ASB Bank and has been part of the curriculum in three out of four schools since its formation 12 years ago. Since 2020 GetWise sessions have made it a priority to insert their classes into low decile schools to help students make good decisions with money.
35 year old Sopoaga has taught more of the program than anyone in the country, but says it doesn’t feel like he has been amongst this many students. Ironically, he’s never counted the numbers of how many students he’s taught but leaves the counting for his classes. “People ask me all the time how I manage to bring the same energy day in and day out. But, I don’t even know. I just know the content we teach is super important and know it’s going to help these kids in their lives.”
As a company over 43,000 workshops have been delivered in the last 12 years to almost 1.8 million students. Although the program has positive outcomes for the 7-12 year olds, Sopoaga feels the hardest part of his job is seeing how home life can affect rangatahi at school.
Sopoaga says, “Seeing kid’s faces and you know that they are going through a bit. How many times have I had kids come up to me and ask if they can have a bite of my sandwich. If I can provide that distraction from whatever is going on at home through our program and make it enjoyable. I’m happy to do it. “
“[I] Have even had some kids ask me if I can be their dad,” he laughed.
Associate director of Getwise, Linda Hodgson, applauds Sopoaga for the energy and expertise he brings in these communities. “If young Pacific Islanders can see their own people present in these professional and high level workshops. They will be proud of them and will be more engaged to listen.”
“The best thing about being Pacific Islanders in this space is that they’re great storytellers. It’s like they’re built for these programs, they bring a different element and just know how to engage with their community,” she says.
Sopoaga is a filmmaker and will look to continue to be a part of the industry as well as facilitating in schools. Although he loves what he does, he believes it’s important to do other things you love to create balance in life. He confirmed it’s why he’s managed to keep up his passion for teaching financial literacy for so long.
“I will continue to film and spend time with my family outside of facilitating. I believe it’s important to do things that make you happy so that you can create a good work-life balance. Therefore, students get the best and energetic me every session.”