Young Pasifika are playing a key part in helping to alleviate some of the impacts of the latest Covid-19 outbreak in their South Auckland community.
Young people from South Seas Healthcare's youth-led group, Bubblegum, are helping distribute hundreds of food boxes to families in the AOG Church of Samoa cluster. Many of them know first-hand how hard lockdown can be, and realise the problems that it both presents and amplifies
“One of the main things that we're hearing is the uncertainty around the wages - a lot of these families are having to cater for their grandparents or their aunties and uncles who are not able to leave their homes,” says youth coordinator Ana Kivalu.
Bubblegum’s helpers have also hit the phones to check in on young people in their community - finding out how they are and what they might need, and letting them know what support is available including food parcels, vouchers for phone data and petrol cards.
“Mental health is definitely an issue, especially with the pressures of not only having a family that needs support, but also having school pressures and a general sense of uncertainty on top of that,” says youth coordinator Peter Tanginoa.
The Bubblegum initiative was developed in response to last year’s COVID-19 outbreak. South Seas Healthcare, which delivers a range of primary care, community and social services throughout South Auckland, identified a need for a dedicated response for Pacific youth. Bubblegum was quickly established to provide resources, information and support to the local community, particularly young people. The initiative involves training, upskilling and mobilising Youth Navigators to increase capability amongst Pacific youth in South Auckland and help them provide support to their community.
Other initiatives have since emerged through Bubblegum, including:
F.O.R.M.A.T. is Bubblegum's tutoring workshop, which runs three afternoons a week. It offers a space for students to get study help, have a chat, a bite to eat, and most importantly check in with each other.
The workshop matches students with a tutor who is either studying at university or working in an area like history, science, English or maths, to help tackle assessments. But their main job description is to help students let off some steam and leave with a smile.
“With lockdown, we’ve had to put the workshops on hold, so instead we’ve been running weekly virtual check-in's to help the young people stay connected and talk-through various issues and experiences,” says Youth Development Lead, Sonya Masoe.
BTB - Cuts, culture and conversation
Barbershop BTB (Brother to Brother) Cuts offer free or discounted trims to locals, combining culture and conversation with a haircut.
“BTB is much more than a haircut – it’s about creating a safe place for young men to speak,” says BTB barber Taka Vuni.
The barbers are also specially trained in mental health first aid, and have undertaken asuicide prevention programme, so they can offer support and advice on all sorts of other things in a safe way. Their biggest customers are high school students. For many of them, Covid-19 has taken a huge toll on their mental health, so they’re encouraged to talk things through, from one brother to another.
While a barbershop is not a typical place one would go to receive mental health advice, it goes back to the Southseas motto: ‘every door is the right door’.
"For us, it's just about creating this energy. We get our community come in feeling down and looking down. If we can just help them leave here feeling good, hopefully that's one step closer to where they want to be."