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FLO Talanoa Facilitator Profile:Maria Pasene

It’s all about building relationships with others and building trust so that you are better able to influence change in a system that sometimes doesn’t respond well to the unique needs of our communities.

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 want to share with you some of the inspirational people that volunteer to be FLO Talanoa Faciliators. This month we profile FLO Talanoa facilitator, Maria Pasene.

Name: Maria Pasene

Role: Pasifika Health Manager

Community: Canterbury Pasifika and Health Communities

Favourite quote: You teach people how to treat you. Don’t settle for mediocre because you cut the path for those that follow behind you.

Tell us a little bit about yourself
I was born in Wellington in the 60’s and one of seven children.  My father Ray Albert Pasene is from Alofi South Niue and my mother Jeannie Dorothy Pasene (nee Strickland) is from Avarua Rarotonga. I am the mother of two children and married to a 6’4 gentle giant from Blenheim. I love and appreciate anything creative:  art, singing, dancing, theatre. In my young days I was all up in it but nowadays I’m more of an appreciative observer. 

What do you do on an average day?
Marketing… convincing others of the value of my stuff.  Whether it be ways to address the inequities communities experience in health and ways to improve our health by developing new policies that make things easier for patients or changing how a service is delivered to make it more user friendly.  It’s all about building relationships with others and building trust so that you are better able to influence change in a system that sometimes doesn’t respond well to the unique needs of our communities.

What do you love about being a part of your community?
That’s easy… the people.  I inherited a love of people.  People genuinely fascinate me, and I enjoy the opportunity to learn what makes people and communities tick.  I love celebrating and investing in the success of others and I’m so lucky to be a part of a community that is easily mobilised and genuinely work at building partnerships with each other. 

When did you first become interested in the suicide prevention space?
I have personal experience of mental health and understand the importance of our communities’ understanding of what mental health is.  I have seen families and communities struggle and I remember that feeling of being lost and hopeless and the intense pain that it created for everyone.  I have stayed well for the last 13 years or so but still have my moments. Being able to provide support and hope to others is part of my process of staying well.  Everyday I count my blessings and celebrate the good that is in my life.  

What led you to become a FLO Talanoa facilitator?  
I’m passionate about growing prosperous and vibrant communities that experience success.   FLO Talanoa provides a setting where we can peel back some of our layers and address issues that we probably would not otherwise discuss.  I think our people are in a space where they are now ready to have some important discussions about suicide prevention and FLO Talanoa provides a space to have some courageous conversations about the challenges that we face as families when it comes to communicating openly with each other about our struggles. 

How does your role as a FLO Talanoa facilitator impact or help people in your family/ community?
I have utilised the FLO Talanoa information on a professional and personal level.  It has provided a cultural lens on suicide prevention that hasn’t been available in the past.  The discussion about the way in which we as Pasifika people, particularly as children, learn to ‘mask’ things is an example of this.  It really has been a valuable resource, a real gift to our communities both mainstream and Pasifika.  

What advice do you have for anyone wanting to work in the suicide prevention space? 
Get in there!!!!! All in!!!! We all have a part to play in suicide prevention.  I guess at the end of the day suicide prevention is really about ways in which we can better express love, understanding and tolerance towards each other.  It’s about how we can create safe and supportive environments so that  vulnerable members of our communities can flourish and be well. 

Plans going forward as a FLO Talanoa facilitator
Ambitious plans to deliver as wide as possible to our Pasifika communities in Canterbury as we have had a high level of interest from mainstream services who want to provide better supports to Pasifika patients, students, clients. Delivery to mainstream is slightly different but still meets the same end goal to reduce risk and improve the lives of our young people and communities in regard to their health and wellbeing.   

Check out the inspirational profiles of other FLO Talanoa facilitators: Moana Ngaata, Jason Tiatia and Veisinia Pulu-Lakai.

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Covid-19 Update

Face-to-face workshops will not continue while New Zealand is at Level 4. We will be in contact with all participants soon.