Community connectors filling a need


A month ago, Afa Alaloto and Lauao Havili had no idea who each other were.

Now, they are a solid team working as the Oamaru Pacific Island Community Group’s new community connectors.

The jobs were contracted through the Ministry of Social Development, and were created to meet an increased need from families for support during lockdown.

Mrs Alaloto and Ms Havili are continuing the work undertaken by Pacific Covid-19 co-ordinator Silou Temoana, and addressing needs of the Pacific Island community identified in a survey undertaken last year.

The survey revealed the Pasifika community required help with digital literacy, housing and education, but Mrs Alaloto and Ms Havili could also help in other areas.

The community connectors could help refer people to agencies, fill out forms for government agencies and social services and help create relationships.

Mrs Alaloto said the roles were important for laying the foundation for both agencies and families.

“It’s both ways. We advocate for the people’s needs, but we can also advocate for the agencies so their services can be accessed. Not everyone knows what each agency does,” she said.

The community connectors also introduced people to agencies, and could help the community communicate their needs properly before being referred.

Mrs Alaloto had a background in health care as a caregiver.

Ms Havili, who also worked part time at Work and Income, attended the Oamaru Pacific Island Community Group’s Friday night sessions, and recently spoke about her role and how she could help.

“A lot of the mothers came to me afterwards asking questions. [It’s] knowing there’s someone there to help. If they’re shy to come into Work and Income, they know they can come here and we can help,” Ms Havili.

Taking on the role felt like a full circle moment for her, as many of her family members did not have this type of support when they moved to Oamaru.

“Especially with English as a barrier, it’s almost like I’ve come into this role to be a support network that my mum didn’t have when she moved here.”

The roles were not just designed for the Pacific Island community, and they both encouraged anybody who needed help to contact the group’s offices.