Pasifika Mamas come together for joy

Published on 30th of April, 2023

A new mothers’ group for Pasifika women set up by the Christchurch Methodist Mission encompasses strong, positive family values and is the only one of its kind in the city.

Pasifika Mamas caters to stay-at-home mums, new mums, and young mums of Pasifika heritage, as well as mothers with Pasifika children, meeting fortnightly on a Wednesday morning at the New Brighton Union Church.

CMM’s Community Development Practice Lead Fionna Chapman says Pasifika Mamas came about from conversations with friends and family members who were pregnant or had recently given birth. The initiative focuses on the coming together of Pacific women and the commonalities shared by those women. A group of three mothers were keen to start a group, so Fionna provided the space for the mothers to get together and invite others. CMM supported the growth of the group.

Starting with four mums and two expectant mums in November 2022, Pasifika Mamas now comprises anywhere between five and 11 mothers. In addition to being a lovely place to mingle, the group provides a safe space for mamas to share their stories, experiences and tips through a Pasifika lens. The group uplifts the wellbeing of the mamas and prevents social isolation. Sessions includes education on topics such as financial capability, infant massage, story time at the Aranui library, sing-along with Loopy Tunes, and also incorporates talanoa/korero (talking) sessions.

“To describe the value of caring in Pasifika society, you wouldn’t have to look too far from the Fonofale model, which is our Pasifika equivalent to Te Whare Tapa Whā, that family underpins everything, and that looking after our spiritual, physical and emotional wellbeing, as well as service to our community, is crucial,” Fionna says. Pasifika parent groups are particularly important as not all second or third generation Pasifika parents are part of Pacific church communities, or have only limited experience in a Pacific community.

For Gaseilevao Faletolu-Toaiva, one of the founding mothers, the group provides the Pacific element not present in other parenting groups. “It’s good for both my son and I because of the fact it is run by Pasifika and is for Pasifika and we can discuss things that are everyday things with regards to being a mum and things that are culturally appropriate. I can relate to the other mums in the group.”

As a new mum, she can draw on the experience of second and third-time mothers in the group. “Everyone brings their own aspect to the group and it meshes well. Mums have said it’s nice to connect with their Pacific side and make new friends, well sisters, I guess.”

She enjoys seeing her son grow alongside his peers and says the group is one of her favourite aspects of being on maternity leave. “You don’t have to be fluent-speaking or up to date with cultural protocols. If you identify as Pacific, or your child does, you’re welcome to come along. It’s a place for mums to feel safe and comfortable and it gives them a chance to get out and shake off the cabin fever and be able to socialise.”