Sports day connects Pasifika youth

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Invercargill children Taoa Fiso (left, 7) and Ene Molioo (8) at the Pasifika Youth Sports Day at ILT Stadium Southland last week.

AFTER losing a young Pasifika person to suicide in Invercargill last year, four church ministers are on a mission to prevent it from happening again.

Earlier this month, ministers Reverend Lole Fiso, Pastor Jim Wasasala, Reverend Mose Peteru and Reverend Vilisoni Vehekite formed the Southland Pasefika Pastoral Committee (SPPC) an initiative aimed at addressing the issue of suicide and mental health among Pasific youth in the region.

Rev Fiso and Rev Vehekite recognised there was a lack of mental health support in Invercargill for young Pasific Islanders, so decided to call on fellow Pasific ministers to come together and find a solution.

Rev Fiso said the intention was to bring Pasifika youth together and offer them pastoral care, with a focus on enhancing ties to their culture and the role it played in forming their identity.

“We lost a church member to suicide in December last year, it’s just happening too much.

“The goal is to add more of an opportunity to reach out to our Pasifika youth, talk about suicide prevention and bring unity into the Pasifika youth community.”

The first committee of its kind, the theme was to “get fit”, not just physically, but mentally and spiritually.

“The parents and elders are really pleased with what we’re doing here.”

Plans developed by the committee included sports days, youth church services and eventually a weekend camp where the focus would be on suicide prevention and wellbeing.

Last week, the group hosted its second sports day at ILT Stadium Southland, where more than 150 Pasifika youth and their families gathered to play a range of interactive sports.

“Some of the young people didn’t even know some of the other Pasifika youth in Invercargill,” Rev Fiso said.

The amount of people who attended had grown significantly since the first event at the start of the month.

“We advertised in the community and got feedback from last time.

“It’s not just church members here now, it’s expanded to a much wider group which was our aim.”

Rev Vehekite’s wife, Lesley, said more than 300 people attended the youth service at Invercargill’s First Presbyterian Church on Sunday.

“[We would] like to make a special recognition and appreciation towards ILT Stadium Southland for their contributions, Respect Network for donation vouchers, retired Cook Island Minister Kimi Henry, known as Papa Kimi, and his wife Raylene for sponsoring venues for practices.”

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