In the heart of Hastings, where a vibrant Pasifika community thrives, a movement known as AIGAMUA is gaining momentum. Led by Jayjay Sali-Laga'aia and Marateina Fameitau, AIGAMUA is dedicated to the mental health and well-being of their Pasifika youth and families.
Roughly translated to mean 'family first,' AIGAMUA is more than just a name; it’s a philosophy that formed the core of their mission. Born and raised in Flaxmere Hastings, Jayjay carries a rich blend of Samoan, Samoga through his mum, Aleipata through his biological father, and Fa’alapalauli through his stepfather in his blood. Meanwhile Marateina (pictured below right with fiance Hinemaria) , hails from the Cook Islands and Tonga, with his roots spreading from Lapaha to Kolonga. They share a common passion, a vision born from their own personal experiences and their desire to shatter the barriers surrounding mental health in their Pasifika communities.
It was an initiative born from loss. Jayjay's cousin who was one of Marateina’s best mates had taken his life in 2012.
“It was one of the biggest motives for starting something up,” says Marateina (pictured below left with wife Cynthia), “because he was someone who was really happy.”
“We had no idea anything was wrong until he took his life. We still wonder a lot why he had to suffer in silence.”
With the support of Pasefika Proud, an initiative committed to empowering Pasifika communities and promoting well-being, AIGAMUA's journey gained a powerful ally. Pasefika Proud involvement, particularly in their most recent initiative, the Mental Health Youth Convention, was instrumental. This convention was a groundbreaking step, distinctly different from their previous efforts.
The Youth Convention was exclusively designed to address the unspoken barriers that held the youth back from opening up about their mental health struggles. Jayjay and Marateina recognised that the young generation either lacked awareness of available resources or was inadequately educated about mental health, leading them to suffer in silence.
“It was just about being able to speak up about the issues that they're dealing with, instead of bottling it up and suffering,” advises Jayjay.
The importance of this initiative was undeniable. It aimed to equip the youth with the tools and knowledge they needed to voice their concerns, access support, and break free from the shackles of silence. The ultimate goal was to empower young individuals to feel comfortable discussing their mental health issues.
They discussed a particular mother sharing her daughter’s transformation after the Convention.
“After her daughter came back from the youth convention, she says she really opened up around how she felt and how some of the tools that she learned helped her feel like it was okay to open up and think.”
The data collected during their visits to local high schools played a pivotal role in crafting the Mental Health Youth Convention. This data enabled AIGAMUA to create four crucial workshops that addressed the specific needs and challenges faced by the youth.
One of these workshops centered on restoring the connection to spiritual identity, recognising that many young people had lost touch with their cultural and spiritual roots. A second workshop focused on emotional well-being and how to manage one's emotions while dealing with mental health challenges. This workshop was developed in collaboration with Kainga Pasifika Services, an organisation specialising in promoting safe and healthy relationships, demonstrating AIGAMUA's commitment to forging valuable partnerships for the betterment of their community.
AIGAMUA's journey, fuelled by personal experiences and a dedication to the well-being of their Pasifika community, is deeply rooted in the principle of 'family first.'
From the organisation’s focus through to their staff, the AIGAMUA team consisted of five dedicated individuals, each bringing a unique set of skills to the movement. Marateina, one of the co-founders, was joined by his wife, Cynthia, who specialised in counselling. Jayjay's partner, Hinemaria, had a background in health sciences, adding a valuable dimension to the team's expertise. Vicky, another member, was in her final year of psychology, lending her insights into the complexities of mental health.
With the support of Pasefika Proud, they were making significant strides in breaking the silence surrounding mental health, empowering their youth to speak up, access resources, and build a healthier and more resilient community, where mental health was not a taboo but a topic of open conversation.
Together, they are fostering stronger and more vibrant Pasifika families in their community.
AIGAMUA is a Pacific organisation leading Pacific mental health movement for social change to reverse the adversity of mental health impacting Pacific families based in the Hastings area. Their primary level of support is focussed on supporting young Pasefika in suicide/self-harm prevention. AIGAMUA was born from a significant rise in the number of young Pasefika suffering from mental health related issues in Hawkes Bay. Their Folauga mental health model underpinned the key pillars of ‘Family First’ and a collective response to ensure young people are protected and supported before it gets to the crisis point of self-harm.
Shared Pacific values underpin Pasefika Proud
Our vision and approach are underpinned by the following shared Pacific values, which help to nurture and sustain family and community wellbeing. They are protective factors for Pacific peoples:
LOVE | FAMILY | COLLECTIVE | RESPECT | SPIRITUALITY | RECIPROCITY