Latest News 5 August 2019 | For 23-year-old Otara local Fonoifafo (Fono) McFarland-Seumanu, juggling multiple responsibilities is nothing new.
Apart from being a public health nurse for Kidz First - Community Health, Fono is also a community leader, Pacific youth advocate, foster mother of five tamariki and newly crowned Miss Samoa New Zealand.
Set to compete in the Miss Samoa Pageant in Apia, Samoa next month, she says the competition is more than just winning a crown.
"I wanted to use the Miss Samoa New Zealand platform to promote health awareness andtertiary level education to our Pacifica people," Fono says.
"I've seen firsthand the impact low health literacy has on our Pacifica families. Through my participation in this pageant, I’m hoping to connect with Pacifica health providers to help further support this work and bring my goals to light.”
Growing up in Otara, Fono wanted to be a cop, but taking part in the Health Science Academy at Tangaroa College, she decided to make the switch to nursing.
“The Health Science Academy exposed me to different health care professions. I was inspired by many nurses while doing my tertiary study, particularly my nursing mentor,” she says.
“Our people have the highest rate in all sorts of prevalent health issues; we’re at the top of the stats. No one really understands our struggles like our own people, so being born, bred and raised in Otara, I was exposed to those issues and wanted to make a positive difference in our people’s lives.”
Although being a community-based nurse and a beauty pageant seems worlds apart, for Fono, both roles align to serving her community and making a positive difference.
“Miss Samoa New Zealand is a recognised platform for our Pacifica families and other Pacifica organisations. With the work that I am already doing as a nurse, I wanted to utilise this platform to network with providers that can offer services, especially health and education services, to our people,” she says.
“Since my reign, I’ve had opportunities to go on radio where I’ve been able to speak about healthcare and education. I’ve been able to promote services that would benefit our Pacifica people. This platform has allowed me to reach out more to serve my community and not just within the confinements of my career as a nurse.”
As well as helping to run the Otara ear clinic, Fono also administers an immunisation programme and the rheumatic fever prevention programme at local schools.
“The schools I’m involved with have put my Miss Samoa New Zealand Pageant photo on their noticeboards and into their newsletters to say that their nurse is Miss Samoa New Zealand. It means the children are more likely to access the service.”
Having the support of her family has been a crucial part to her success and instilling the importance of service and charity.
“My family are my engine, I fuel off from their support,” she says.
“My parents are my biggest supporters. I was the first in my family to get a tertiary degree. They understood there were sacrifices as I wasn’t able to be present at home all the time for family commitments.”
Fono hopes to inspire young people in South Auckland to strive to achieve big.
“I want to inspire our Pacific youth. With so much going on in my community – the shootings and gang violence – I wanted to show that, particularly our young girls, there is hope and more to our community than what we read or hear about in the news every day.”