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Play kindly app

When a Pasifika person goes to the effort of producing a PhD, there is a strong drive to serve the communities we come from. When Tafa Esther Cowley-Malcolm completed her PhD thesis at Victoria University she was unwilling to let it sit on a shelf in a library. One of the ways she felt she could continue to share the key messages she had learned from researching Pasifika parenting, was to use technology and develop an app.  

Lucky for Esther, in her extended Samoan whanau was Ali Ekeroma Cowley, who has had many leading design and arts roles, including Storyboard Direction and Animation Director for the TV show “Bro Town”. Esther also recruited the famous comedian, playwright and writer Oscar Kightley.  

She offered these two Samoan men an opportunity to lend their skills to something of great benefit to the Pacific community.

Together, this trio creatively brainstormed an app that combines public health messages and the latest evidence, with comedy and a familiar Bro Town aesthetic that feels on point (relevant). 

This is an innovative way to not just reach a youthful Pasifika demographic, but inform and uplift them by giving tips on how to manage challenging and aggressive behaviour from children.  At its core, the app shows how we as parents have so much power in determining the outcomes of that behaviour if we navigate it well.  

The app demonstrates strategies that are effective and shows the way we respond as parents makes such a huge difference in our children’s lives. We can contain or inflame the situation and we can build our children up or pull them down. Ultimately, we are teaching them the very essence of how to respond and react to others by what we model to them. The very practical examples, designed to give us a giggle but also be incredibly helpful, are not patronising but loving.  They help us in ways that we might feel challenged, modelling real-life situations using real-life examples.  

“Play Kindly” is modelled on international innovation, but through Oscar, Ali and Esther, it has become very much revamped for the “bros” and “sugas”, “urbanesia” and our own Pasifika flavours.  

The launch at the University of Auckland Pasifika Fale was an absolute celebration of us, our own solutions, passion and purpose as a healing and whole community. Le Va was proud to be one of the sponsors of the launch. It is our focus to enable community-derived positive mental health and wellbeing innovations and celebrate success.  

Renowned New Zealand poet, and Le Va staff member Karlo Mila was invited to compose a poem for the launch.  This poem is based on the knowledge and wisdom that our Pasifika ancestors have passed down to us that we can draw on.  Here is Karlo’s poem.

When we open our ears 
to our ancestors
what do they say about parenting?

The Samoan proverb
passed down generation to generation
mouth to ear, matua to child,
tupuna to mokopuna
over centuries,
these words,
against the odds
survive and thrive
in concrete cities
to say:
“the berries on the trees
are the food of young birds
the words of parents
are the food of young humans.”

What then,
do we feed them?

In the early dawn of cold sweat nightmares
of small dreams and tiny kicking feet
waking us after late, long night,
what do we feed them?

In the raw hurt of confronting
the failure of feeling 
not good enough
below standard in a system
designed to divide our small growing children
into under or over, above or below,
what do we feed them?

In the heat of the hot tantrum
our toddlers have not yet learned to handle
what do we feed them?

Our Cook Islands ancestors say
“If there is no wood thrown on the fire,
there will not be any problem.”
Our Tongan ancestors tell us
Afi si’i, tupu ai, e afi lahi
“From a small fire
grows a big fire”

So, in the hot lick of the heat
of the flame
of the fire
of that ignited anger

do we add to that bitter blaze?
and watch it all burn?

Or do we choose words
that fall like rain?
The Samoans say
“rain it is a blessing”.

Do we inhale
and consciously choose
words like rain
actions that are like smooth stones
that circle fire, and contain,
do we explain
that feelings may form like wildfire
but like the best of our ancestors
we can learn to firewalk
over hot coals
so let us be smooth stone, rock, rain
resilient feet
that can take the heat
let us be trusted keepers of the fire.

Even in the quick reactive spark
of tired, hardworking, meal-cooking, dishwashing hands
at the end of a long working week
let us be meek, mild, calm,
let us soothe the va,
nurture our children
let us hear the words of our ancestors
even if we can’t speak the language
let us listen to what they have to say
let us be keepers of that thin flamed fire
that has burned in villages 
over centuries, between islands, over oceans
let their words become our words,
that we use to feed
our children, mind, body and spirit,
let the feast upon fond words,
filled with alofa, ofa, aro’a, aroha

Let us be called,
even in this digital age
to continue being ourselves.
Let us teach our children
to play kindly 
knowing that our relationships
with each other, our Va,
is our most precious resource.

Let us be the loving matua
we are called to be,
kui, koro, fa’e, fahu, tamai, mamas, papas, people…
Let us be good ancestors

About the author •

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.