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Supporting the community . . . Oamaru Pacific Island Group Tupu Aotearoa mentors Mele Huakau (left) and Silou Temoana have been teaching their community how to budget and cook when they go off to tertiary studies. PHOTO: KAYLA HODGE

Helping people is in Mele Huakau’s blood.

She grew up watching her biggest influence, her father Reverend Lakepa Finau, supporting the Pacific Island community, and it became ingrained in her to follow suit.

As the Tupu Aotearoa programme’s new mentor, she gets to do just that.

“I’ve always been the type of person that loves helping people. That’s why I took this job on, because I don’t want to see people fail, especially when it comes to our Pacific people. I understand how it feels to sit in a room and not understand anything – I want to see everyone succeed in what they do in life,” Mrs Huakau said.

Tupu Aotearoa is funded by the Ministry of Pacific Peoples to support people aged between 15 and 59 with employment and training.

Mrs Huakau, who held a certificate in social studies, worked alongside fellow mentor Silou Temoana to create a three-part workshop for those heading off to tertiary education.

They had sessions with Waitaki Budget Advice, before they were split into groups to grocery shop for ingredients for two menus.

They then learnt how to create meals with the food they purchased with Mrs Huakau, who was also a chef.

“The kids really enjoyed it and keep asking if I could do another one. Now we’ve got requests from young mothers to hold them too.”

Mrs Huakau and Mrs Temoana would keep in touch with the pupils as they went to university and polytech.

Mrs Temoana said the programme was started to meet the needs of the Pacific Island community.

“It might not have got the whole population .. but little by little it’s coming as we roll it out more.”

Hosting sessions for the wider North Otago community would be looked at in the future.

Helping people achieve their goals – such as obtaining their driver licence – was satisfying, she said.

Oamaru Pacific Island Community Group general manager Hana Halalele was excited about the new opportunities Mrs Huakau and Mrs Temoana could create for the community.

“It’s reaching out to the community, and having a look at the skill sets that we need so we can lead the change that we want to see in our community,” Mrs Halalele said.

The programme was always looking for apprenticeships and job opportunities for their clients in the North Otago community, she said.