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HEAD OFFICE  |  PHONE 0800 366 648 (0800 FONO 4U)   |  LOCATIONS  

PHONE 0800 366 648
(0800 FONO 4U)

Nius Newsletter

Malo Team Fono!

We are now well into Alert Level 1 and for many the highlight has been the re-emergence of sport in New Zealand. Netball and rugby being highlights in my family. These have provided an uplift in spirits nationwide as shown in levels of attendance at national and club matches by enthusiastic fans. At The Fono there have been a number of highly significant initiatives rolling out during Level 1 indicating the resolve of our team to provide services that really will make a difference with our people.

We had a remarkable “We Care” training day mid-June with The Fono’s Social Services, Public Health, Oceania Career Academy (OCA) and senior management teams. Our keynote speakers Debbie Sorensen, CEO of Pasifika Medical Association (PMA), and Pelenato Sakalia, CEO of the Pacific Business Trust (PBT) perfectly set the scene for a reaffirmation by the staff in workshops of The Fono’s unique advantage in delivering a highly integrated approach to family and community wellbeing.

After having to cease operations for a time except for emergency and urgent cases during Levels 3 and 4 The Fono Dental service built up from Level 2 resumption back to full services. This has led on to concentrated communication of the advantages of the service on the new web and social media vehicles and the launch of a series of stories from our patients about what our high quality, affordable dental care achieved for them. 

I am very proud this month to share with you the stories of Alexandra Soliga-Poumako and Peter Setefano. Two keen and ambitious students at the Oceania Career Academy who are great examples of what The Fono set out to achieve with OCA and are proof that given the right opportunity and encouragement, young people will reach their potential. On a pathway to personal success and contribution to their families and communities.

The three items we feature in the July Nius are just a few of the exciting things that the people of The Fono are achieving in these Level 1 times. Enjoy reading the newsletter and feel as inspired as we all are.

Malo, Tevita

‘We Care’ Training Day

‘Caring starts at home’ is what CEO, Tevita Funaki envisaged when he called for a full-day training for Social Services, Public Health, Oceania Career Academy (OCA) and senior management teams on Friday 12th of June.

With over sixty staff in attendance at the Trust Stadium in Henderson, all colorfully dressed in their assigned teams representing eight of our island homes, the day was set to be a significant milestone in The Fono’s post-COVID Alert Level 4 journey as the country’s largest Pacific owned health, social service and education provider.

CEO, Tevita Funaki opening the day’s programme.

“We’ve learned so much during Alert Level 4 and 3. Particularly around the way we provide care and support for our families. Without a doubt, our Whanau Ora holistic model of care is how we will better support families to thrive,” said Tevita as he opened the training.

Tevita went on to emphasise the importance of every team member living and breathing The Fono and OCA’s promise of ‘caring is our culture’. “This training is about ensuring that our service delivery is truly integrated and that every household we’re in will receive comprehensive wrap-around support from us and our partner organisations.”

To add context to the day, keynote speakers Debbie Sorensen, CEO of Pasifika Medical Association (PMA), and Pelenato Sakalia, CEO of the Pacific Business Trust (PBT), opened the training with their take on the critical role social services and trades training play in Pacific wellbeing and economic development.

Debbie through PFL is not only one of the major funders of The Fono’s services, she was also a previous CEO of the organisation in its infancy – twice, she says. “I was there thirty years ago when our community told us that they wanted a health service that had doctors, nurses, community workers who know us, who understand our lives and we trust to look after us. I was there again with Dr Colin Tukuitonga to sign the first bit of money to start The Fono. Hence, The Fono was born.

Chief Operations Officer, Sally Dalhousie thanking Debbie Soorenson for accepting the invitation to be keynote speaker on what was also her birthday.

“To stand here today and hear about the work you do, to understand the scope of services you provide across the whole of Auckland and Northland, takes my breath away. What a fantastic vision that has been realized.” Debbie also went on to acknowledge the role The Fono board and CEO played in PFL’s successful bid to be the first Pacific Whanau Ora Commissioning Agency, 7 years ago. Today a total of $215 million has been received in the past few years, the largest investment by any government in Pacific services. “This is the result of your work, you and all 42 PFL partners across the country. PFL has a trust relationship with The Fono, because we can rely on you to take care of our families.”

“Choose courage over comfort each and every day,” was Debbie’s closing message for The Fono.

Next, Pelenato Sakalia from PBT shared the approach he has adopted as he rebuilds the organization under its new mandated role of the Pacific Economic Development Agency, focusing on Pacific community prosperity. “To do that well we need to understand our Pacific business owners’ attitudes to business, and most often it’s to do with family values and mindset. The work that The Fono does is fundamental to business recovery, post-COVID-19. The business support, tools and advice PBT provide to the 1,500 business owners on its books will not be effective for all of them. Some of the reasons that hold some back requires a more holistic approach. Barriers for those that are finding it difficult are more to do with people and attitude issues, we would need a really good understanding of the person, their family situation and their community context.”

“Our people’s lives are not segregated to health, education, businesses and so on. The challenge for us that work in the Pacific space is to work collaboratively to provide all of life support for our families to thrive. We collectively need a real social understanding and insight to our families. If we can find a way to bring economic and social understanding together, offer real support for the whole person, the whole family and the whole community, we can make this work – to drive real meaningful and sustainable changes in our community.”

The afternoon programme belonged to the staff, they split into their teams to workshop and brainstorm on how to better drive integrated services within The Fono. Teams were also given scenarios of Pacific families with a multitude of difficulties that needed to be addressed. They prepared a 10-minute skit to demonstrate their integrated solutions for their selected scenario to close the day’s programme.

Team Tuvalu all dressed up for action.

Well, it was game on! Each group put on their creative hats to plan their solutions and skits. Aside from the laughter and screams, it was clear from the performances that the staff had a unanimous understanding and passion of The Fono’s model of care that delivers integrated services with a culture of caring.

To close the day winners were selected, and team Samoa won first prize and bragging rights for their moving and poignant performance. The team from the Kingdom, made up of Samoans and Fijians, was crowned best dressed, while the team from the Rock awarded themselves crowd favorite for their intense and hilarious version of integrated services.

The day ended with the team invigorated and inspired to continue their work with Pasifika families across Auckland and Northland. Tevita Funaki closed by reminding staff, “Our community deserve the very best from us. Our COVID-19 recovery starts at home with us, we need to be brave and courageous, we need to look up, and we need to continually improve our unique integrated model of care, because it’s the right thing to do for our families and communities.”

It’s all on for The Fono Dental

The Fono Dental team has been a busy crew this past month fine tuning our dental services and launching some new pages specifically for our three dental clinics in the city on Wyndham St, Henderson and Manurewa. You will have noticed that The Fono’s website (www.thefono.org) has recently had a make-over, this fresh new-look was launched in June.

So we’re excited to announce the launch of The Fono Dental’s stand-alone website page, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn pages. This is a wonderful way for our dental patients and those exploring and interested in our services to stay connected and communicate with us directly regarding their dental needs and enquiries. We will be using this page to share knowledge, dental news, promotions, tips straight from our dentists and inspiring stories from our patients. We strongly believe that dental health plays a crucial role in our patient’s overall health and wellbeing therefore our services are an important contributor to The Fono’s integrated and holistic approach to healthcare.

Dentist Dr. Pulkit Kinra with patient Dane Kereopa

The Fono Dental’s city clinic launched the June-July promos in mid-June and the phones started ringing for bookings. The COVID months, when time stood still in some ways, didn’t go on hold for our pearly whites. Many, including The Fono Dental’s team themselves would now be overdue for hygiene checks and exams, making this the ideal time to launch these packages. We are also beginning to tell the real stories of our patients. Come on, everyone loves stories and what better way to reduce dental chair nervousness than hearing about positive experiences directly from The Fono Dental’s happy and relieved patients in our communities. 

Our first patient testimonial is the story of Dane Kereopa. From Mangere Bridge, a committed physiotherapist and rugby league enthusiast, Dane had a build-up of underlying dental issues. A league induced “knock in the head” (ouch!) quickly made his dental needs a top priority. He needed to get them sorted and due to bad pain – fast! With a referral to The Fono Dental in Henderson, he experienced top quality care and treatment from our devoted staff. A treatment plan was set and followed and soon he was back on top of his dental health. 

We filmed Dane in our Henderson clinic with our superstar Manurewa based dentist Dr Pulkit. The filming involved some ‘painful’ dental jokes followed by lots of laughs – albeit good for the production team’s health too! Fa’afetai to Dane and Dr Pulkit for their time – we sincerely appreciate the heartfelt effort they contributed. Our biggest motivation is to know that these stories make others aware that they’re not the only ones facing these challenges and that The Fono Dental is here to give advice, put our patient’s at ease, and provide high quality services – all with affordable prices and caring, professional dentists. The final videos will be launched in July so be sure to lookout for Dane’s story on The Fono’s website and The Fono Dental’s social media pages very soon!






Lifting earning capacity for Maori and Pacific at OCA

By the time our students graduate from Oceania Career Academy (OCA), hearing the words ‘empowerment’, ‘education’ and ‘enterprise’ is something they have become so used to, for these are the core values embedded into students for their success from day one. Alexandra Soliga-Poumako and Peter Setefano are two students at OCA who have exemplified our core values since they started in 2019.

Alexandra Soliga-Poumako

Alexandra who is proudly Maori and Samoan, is one of several female students at OCA who demonstrates a flair for building. Alexandra can be spotted amongst the crowd of students with her bubbly personality and genuine smile. When she first started in October 2019, she wasn’t sure what she would do, but knew that one day she would build her own home. Alexandra’s expectation when she first started the OCA and MSD’s ‘Job Seeker Skills for Industry Programme’ was that it would be different from other courses she had attended. When she first arrived on the OCA doorstep unsure of her future plans she was not disappointed and her development journey began. She credits the OCA MSD Programme as the foundation which led her to where she is today.

A few weeks into the OCA MSD Programme and she was 90% sure that the areas of carpentry and construction were where she wanted to develop her skills to secure a long term sustainable career.
Alexandra is the motivator of the class and is always the one to initiate and encourage more action in the classroom. She is also a mentor for the young women in the course.

These skills were heightened and developed further and saw her lead a small group of students to help cater and coordinate the 2019 Student Graduation held at Fale o Samoa in Mangere. This was a great success and received positive feedback from the Consulate General of Samoa who was grateful that the Fale was left cleaner than the previous function.

“This course is like family, it allows for each student’s needs, not just in the classroom but also with my family to ensure I complete the course and gain good employment. If I am going to succeed it will be here with the support of OCA”.

Alexandra successfully completed her OCA MSD Programme late in 2019 and started the level 3 Carpentry Programme in February this year. She hopes to continue on to an apprenticeship for a career in the building industry. She has the highest level of support from the OCA staff, and the feedback from her tutors has been very positive and encouraging.

There is a drive for more females to join the building and construction industry but this is only part of the reason Alexandra wants this opportunity, she wants it “for me”.


Peter Setefano

Peter is a former OCA MSD Job Seeker Skills for Industry Programme student who joined the programme after listening to the OCA presentation at his Pukekohe Tongan Church.

For several years prior to this Peter had been working on the minimum wage for an employer based in Pukekohe. Having worked with his brother for the same employer for a long time and not having advanced, Peter had become frustrated and unmotivated.

They had approached their employer requesting a pay review numerous times but were continuously given the same excuses, never receiving a pay rise. This made it financially difficult for him to make ends meet and most importantly, to give his young family the lifestyle that he wanted for them. There was no professional development offered and Peter felt he was being used for cheap labour while “doing the work of experienced carpenters”. Most of all, his dream for a better life for himself and his family since emigrating from Tonga was slowly fading away into “this low paying job with no future”.

Peter says that hearing the OCA presentation that Sunday was the opportunity he was praying for, but didn’t know how to achieve it. “It was as if someone upstairs had actually heard my prayers and sent someone to guide me through to the next level”. What echoed in Peters mind the most, was why he wasn’t getting the same money as the construction Hammer Hands and the Carpenters. He realised that he did not have the Trade Qualifications! So in September 2019 Peter took a giant leap of faith for himself and for the future wellbeing of his family by handing in his resignation the following Monday, and enrolling at OCA.

This was a huge move for Peter as this would impact on his income. To ensure he could continue to provide for his family while studying he looked for odd jobs on the weekends and weeknights. His mentors at OCA referred him to The Fono Whanau Ora programme who supported him by purchasing essential tools for his after-hours jobs.

Because Peter is the oldest, he convinced his two younger siblings to join him with the aim that they all work towards their Trade Certificates, gain some experience on the job and run their own construction business in the future.

Since enrolling into OCA, other students look to him for guidance as he has the honorary role of ‘big brother’ to his classmates. His tutors complement his quality of work which is always to an exceptionally high standard and they appreciate the added bonus of leadership when it comes to motivating and supporting students to complete their projects and assessments.

Peter is the student that most tutors dream of. His academic work is excellent and is always submitted before the due date. As a valuable member of the class he always contributes to all activities and offers constructive points of view. He has a very pleasant approachable personality and is always a pleasure for tutors to have in the class.

“I’m well on my way now to provide a better future not only for my wife and two young children, but for my extended family and our Pukekohe community. It’s the best feeling in the world.”