By guest contributor, Josiah Tualamali’i, University of Canterbury
The 35th annual Samoan University Students So’otaga was held in Christchurch over five days in August and early September.
With a packed programme of speeches, debates, a visual arts competition and cultural and Christian performances, So’otaga enabled students from across the country to learn, practise, share and develop their understanding of their Samoan culture and heritage. This year, Victoria University, Auckland University, Auckland University of Technology and Waikato University all participated in the first So’otaga in Christchurch in the aftermath of the Canterbury Earthquakes of 2010 – 2012.
In having the So’otaga in Christchurch this year, costs and logistics were significantly affected by the lack of venues, equipment and other logistics post-quakes.
Tumama Tu’ulua the President of the Canterbury University Samoan Students Association (CUSSA) stated,
We were very fortunate to have the support of groups such as Le Va as a primary sponsor, not only providing monetary support but also emotional support in such a difficult organising climate, and content support through organising a workshop with the 250 participants on their services, and how to get through difficult times together.”
Canterbury University Samoan Student Association alumni (and Le Va staff member) Abba Fidow travelled to Christchurch to present on Le Va’s work, and the importance of culture as a protective factor. President Tu’ulua said,
Abba’s session was extremely useful – connection to your culture, being with your family, community and friends, celebrating success is all good and all part of keeping well.”
CUSSA Promotions Officer Josiah Tualamali’i added that,
…often at University we are told we need to cut back on other commitments in order to focus on study. This is difficult as a Pasifika young person because there so many things we just culturally need to do. Hearing Le Va say that it is ok to do this in a balanced way, and that it actually is better for us to do both is reassuring.”
Post-quakes, Christchurch’s Pasifika peoples have been statistically proven to be worse off in terms of mental health and wellbeing. Le Va has identified Christchurch for strategic interventions to support the health sector there through training sessions on engaging Pasifika peoples, suicide prevention trainings and also by advising and supporting through their suicide prevention ambassadors network among other work.
Tu’ulua wants to extend his thanks on behalf of himself and all attendees at So’otaga 2015.
Le Va was an extremely important part of So’otaga 2015. We are very fortunate to have had their support. It’s one thing to say a way to do it, but to support that practically is fantastic. Fa’afetai tele lava Le Va.
The host for So’otaga 2016 will be Waikato University any enquiries about So’otaga 2016 can be directed to Josiah Tualamali’i – CUSSA Promotions Officer – firstname.lastname@example.org
Scenes from So’otaga 2015