The Fono

Health & Social Services

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Appreciating a Helping Hand

As manager of a Christian radio station and a church minister in Samoa, Reverend Rolani Mikaele says he had a very good life in his home country. But when his church wanted him to spread the word of the Lord among the growing Samoan population in New Zealand, he felt compelled to go. 

“Most people leave Samoa for New Zealand for their education or job opportunities,” he says.

“But we came because we felt from the Lord that he wants us to come and continue his mission.”

Rolani arrived with his wife and five children in 2005. He admits he felt very unfamiliar in his new environment and didn’t like the cold. But he was determined to fulfil his commitment and began working with other pastors to lead the church.

Life was tough due to the cost of living in New Zealand and Rolani admits they struggled to find suitable and affordable accommodation where they were based in West Auckland.

When the house they were renting came up for sale, the struggle to pay bills and find enough money for a bond to rent a suitable home before the sale deadline became desperate.

They approached The Fono, where they were patients at the medical clinic. Rolani says The Fono’s response was a Godsend.

He was connected with Whanau Ora Navigator Tala Naseri and Social Services Manager Loga Crichton.

Through Whanau Ora Rolani was referred to WINZ (Work and Income New Zealand) for assistance with their rental deposit and an accommodation supplement they were eligible for.

Initially reluctant to rely on Government funds, he says having The Fono assisting them was key to improving his understanding and accepting the help.

“We didn’t want to rely on government money, but we were in a desperate situation,” Rolani says.

“Being Samoan, Tala and Loga came and explained and shared everything so we understood.”

The Fono contacted a Real Estate agent who was able to arrange a new place to stay within a more manageable time-frame.

The family have since been referred to The Fono’s Health Promotion team, who are working with the family on Rheumatic fever prevention in the home, obesity awareness, being more physically active and improved nutrition through healthy eating.

“When people are in a desperate situation, their anxiety levels rise and that begins to have a toll on their health. Our Health Promotion team is supporting them to become more physically active and to make better healthy eating choices so they can avoid the problems that stem from obesity,” says Tala.

Rolani says The Fono’s support gives them confidence they are moving in the right direction.

“We are looking to set up our own business as part of our two-year plan and our children are doing well in their studies,” he says.

“We see New Zealand as our home now and have applied for citizenship. The Fono has been a wonderful blessing for us and I thank the Lord and New Zealand.”


Whanau Ora has been able to work in partnership with Rolani and his family through completing a comprehensive assessment and identifying their needs. Both the Navigator and family developed a plan that would meet current needs and plan for future needs. So far, Whanau Ora has supported them through:


  • Financial burdens related to housing accessibility and affordability
  • Health issues related to lifestyle choices
  • Risk of Rheumatic fever living in unsuitable accommodation

Support provided by The Fono

  • Whanau Ora Navigation service assessed the family and developed a family plan
  • Referred to The Fono Health Promotion team who encouraged exercise and eating healthier foods
  • Rheumatic fever education in the home
  • GP and Nurse services
  • Assistance with some home furniture

Referral to other services including

  • Whanau Ora referred to and supported them at Work and Income for additional financial assistance
  • Referred to a private real estate agent with assistance to find a new rental home

The Fono’s Whanau Ora services

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