Applause rang through the auditorium of Ashburton College following a powerful speech presented to students in light of National Volunteer Week/Te wiki tūao ā motu.
Josiah Tualamali’i, the founder of the Pacific Youth Leadership and Transformation Council and an advocate for Samoan New Zealand health and social justice, spoke at the college to commemorate students who had participated in volunteer work, and to encourage others to get involved.
Mr Tualamali’i, who holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and International Relations, said, “volunteering gives us the opportunity to make new friends and mentors, to develop and grow new skills as well as give something back.
“We all can make a choice when we see something out there,” he said.
“When we see people who have needs, when we see people who are alone, when we see people who are hurting and we see people who are tired…there are people in our neighbourhoods who need our help.”
Mr Tualamali’i said offering your time and energy to a cause is a way of leading a wholesome, vibrant, and fulfilling life.
He said volunteering is not just about giving your time to help someone else, but about making change, contributing to cultural awareness and engagement, and standing up for what is right to shape a future that everyone can enjoy.
Born into a multicultural family of Samoan and Pākehā decent, Mr Tualamali’i said although he was born in New Zealand, he didn’t have a lot of opportunities to understand his identity while he was growing up.
Recognising the strong racial diversity within Ashburton College’s student population, he encouraged students to embrace their own identity, to respect and advocate for others, and not be afraid to challenge the status quo.
“Volunteering can happen at so many different levels,” Mr Tualamali’i said.
“Service happens at every level, and that’s what I mean when I talk about a level of service in terms of being a good person and looking after our community, but what we can do on a national level as well, around New Zealand, taking account of our history and making Aotearoa a better place.”
“We control the narrative of New Zealand,” he said, stating how students could dedicate their time to projects of significance to them as individuals, such as supporting the rainbow community, getting involved with mental health initiatives, and helping to organise cultural events.
He asked the students “what is something you’re passionate about? What are your dreams?”
Students raised their hands to talk about wanting to leave behind great legacies, and seeking ways to pave the way for future generations to be more culturally diverse and accepting.
Several students stated how they or their parents were immigrants and had faced isolation or adversity while adapting to New Zealand living.
They recognised a need for more culturally diverse events within Ashburton, enabling people of different cultures to connect with their heritage and feel celebrated and accepted among the community.
“We can all make it easier for them by being more welcoming,” Mr Tualamali’i said.
“If you can take one thing away, take this. Aroha ki te tangata: love for all people.”
The highlight of cultural diversity comes in light of Matariki, which will be celebrated nationally for the first time tomorrow, and is New Zealand’s first indigenous holiday.
Matariki marks the start of the Maori new year, and traditionally heralds a time of reflection, gratitude, and peace.
Several students from Ashburton College were involved in the organisation of Matariki celebrations at the Hakatere Marae last weekend, an effort praised by Ashburton Youth Council volunteer Dellwyn Moylan, and teachers.
-By Indi Roberts