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FLO Talanoa Facilitator Profile: Veisinia Pulu-Lakai

FLO Talanoa  is a community led suicide prevention education programme that is evidence informed, culturally safe and co-designed to be led by Pasifika communities.

FLO Talanoa facilitators receive free training from Le Va and reciprocate by delivering free workshops in their communities – in response our communities take ownership and leadership of suicide prevention community action plans. Facilitators delivering from within their own communities has seen the adaptation of the FLO Talanoa toolkit translated to various Pasifika languages and incorporated into programmes delivered in ways that suit their respective Pasifika communities.

The team at Le Va wanted to share with you some of the inspirational people that volunteer to be FLO Talanoa facilitators.

This month we profile the FLO Talanoa facilitator, Veisinia Pulu – read her inspirational story of migration, serving her family, Tongan and church community.

Name: Veisinia Pulu-Lakai.
Role: FLO Talanoa Facilitator.
Community: Tongan Seventh Day Adventist churches in the South Auckland region.
Favourite quote: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” – Proverbs 9:10.

Tell us a little about yourself

I am the eldest child of Taufa Pulu and Alisi Pulu. 

I was born in Fiji but raised in Tonga, where I spent most of my life before the family moved to Auckland, New Zealand. Our travel has been influenced by my Dad’s role as a Pastor in the Seventh Day Adventist church, with the family following his calling. I am the eldest of 3 children, my siblings are Isaac and Tupou.

I currently live in Papatoetoe with my husband and our 5 year old son, Tokaikolo Lakai.

What do you do on an average day?

I have recently completed my Masters in Science, majoring in Health Psychology with the University of Massey, Albany. Completing this has left me feeling a lot freer. On top of my busy schedule as a full-time Mum and student, I’ve been involved in numerous community roles including roles with the South Auckland Seventh Day Adventist church, as a leader in the kindergarten class, a member of the Pathfinder club and a member of the church health committee (offering initiatives such as boot camp, cooking classes and our annual health week events).

Further to my church role I volunteer for Victim support, and at local fundraising events supporting boxing for prostate cancer and generating funds for local Hospice. At the moment, I am focused on approaching other Pasifika Seventh Day Adventist churches to deliver the FLO Talanoa workshop as well as supporting victims of crime and trauma.

What do you love about being part of your community?

I love the opportunity to make connections with others and exchange ofa.

When did you first become interested in the suicide prevention space?

I’ve always felt I relate to the issues around suicide and wanted to be a part of the solution to support and help where I could. Issues around suicide became more apparent to me while in my role as a Victim supporter.  Many of the clients were Pacific and faced multiple issues which put them at risk of suicide. Some had been affected by suicide within their family and social circle. 

Although my studies in health psychology were very useful, they still lacked a Pacific perspective and a relevant approach to suicide prevention for my people.

What led you to become a FLO Talanoa facilitator? 

When I saw Le Va offering to train community facilitators in Pasifika suicide prevention 2 years ago, I knew it would provide me with the skills and knowledge I needed to help my Tongan community.  

How does your role as a facilitator impact or help people in your family, community?

FLO Talanoa is unique in that it is grounded in Pacific values and provides a framework for me to relate to my community with relevance, safety and sensitivity.   

FLO Talanoa has increased my capacity and capability.  It has given me the confidence and knowledge to talk to others about this important topic (suicide).  

It has made a difference in my family’s life:  Growing up in a traditional family, where the topic and even the word ‘suicide’ has been a big “no, no”, I have managed to find the words to talk to my parents, particularly my father. Initially my father was very resistant, but now he is my biggest fan and – through his leadership role within the church – has opened doors to deliver the FLO Talanoa workshop twice to our Tongan congregation over the last 2 years.

It has also given me the personal insight into my own journey as a migrant child walking in two worlds – Palagi and Tongan – which don’t align in values and protocols – and as a consequence added challenges to growing up in a traditional Tongan household living in New Zealand. Because we didn’t have much growing up, our parents have only wanted something better for their kids, but at times the pressure I felt to meet unrealistic expectations was overwhelming. I am now in a position whereby I am able to have conversations with my teenage sister around similar experiences and act as a support and advocate for her.
 
It has also emphasised the importance of self care.  As a Pacific woman I thought self-care meant being selfish because I interpreted it as putting myself first, before others.Learning more has allowed me to consider strategies to help recognize and deal with my own stress and pressure. Along with my training in the FLO programme, I have also gained critical life lessons and knowledge through my academic studies as a health psychologist, which supports my understanding of the importance of living a balanced life.

 What advice do you have for anyone wanting to work in the suicide prevention space?

  • Know your community well
  • Work on their strengths
  • Be passionate
  • All things are achievable through God’s grace and favour

Plans going forward as a FLO facilitator?

I aspire to deliver the FLO Talanoa workshop across all Pacific Island congregations within the South Auckland Seventh Day Adventist church.

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