A touch of Tonga to Tiaho Mai

During Tongan Language Week, Tiaho Mai, our Adult Mental Health Unit, featured an impressive cultural display in the reception area.

Not only did Seini and her colleague, Sela put up the display, but they also made many of the beautiful pieces in the display with their own hands.

Making kato teu (basket) or kahoa and kafa is a hobby and a tradition that Seini enjoys.

She was born in Tonga and came to New Zealand when she was fourteen.

“In Tonga, we all learn how to make mea’ofa (gifts) and we give them at katoanaga (family occasions) using things like kie (soft white flax), or loakau (paua) and kafa pulu (coconut fibre).”

“When I came to New Zealand not many people knew how to make it, so they always ask me to make for celebrations and I make them for my son at school and things like that too.

“I go home after work and my mum and sisters all sit together at the table and make it.

Sometimes it gets late so we have another coffee, and we keep going until it's finished.”

Seini says she loves her security job and has been at the Tiaho Mai unit for five years. She tells us she would like to work in mental health one day as a Psychiatric Assistant. 

“I love my job. It is like a big family here. I chat to the patients and the staff and they all know me. Sometimes I go play basketball with the patients and they love it.”

“People ask me if I’m scared working in mental health and I tell them no - I love it.”

Seini tells us it is all in the ability to de-escalate a situation.

“If a problem pops up, I just talk to them, listen and help calm them down. They know me so they listen,” she says.


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