Tonga youth leaders recognised

Pasifika Futures sponsored the recent Tonga Youth Excellence Awards where Dame Valerie Adams wowed the audience with her keynote address, which included a simple message; ‘Do what you love, love what you do’ at the Ellerslie Events Centre on 24 March 2017.

The champion shot putter shared with the audience the ups and downs of her sporting story and becoming the youngest New Zealander and a first Tongan to be appointed a Dame, under the Dames Companion of The NZ Order of Merit (DNZM), on the New Year 2017 honours list.

Her damehood is a reward for her incredible career as New Zealand and the world’s strongest shot putter since 2006, and someone who has inspired many young Tongans, including the recipients of this year’s Tongan youth awards.

Adams’ succinct message ‘do what you love, if you don’t love it, change.’ resonated with many young Tongans, encouraging them to give everything in life a go and give it their best shot.

Dame Valerie Adams with Manu Fotu, Director for ATHWA (Aotearoa Tongan Health Workers Association)

Dame Valerie Adams with Manu Fotu, Director for ATHWA (Aotearoa Tongan Health Workers Association)

In her inspiring speech, she told the audience of how proud she is of her Tongan heritage.

Although the two-time Olympic champion was born in Rotorua, Dame Valerie’s heart belongs to her mother’s Tongan heritage and it showed on the night.

The organisers said the event was a truly inspiring occasion.

They believe the awards not only recognise hard-working Tongan youth, but encourage and motivate their peers to strive for excellence as well. Dame Valerie’s address encouraged more Tongan youth to excel in their areas of expertise and demonstrate there are many young Tongan New Zealanders contributing to their communities and inspiring others to do so.

The awards were initiated by the To’utupu Tonga Youth Trust and have been recognising talent since 1997, celebrating Tongan young people who are excelling in Education, Business, Sports, Arts/Music and Community work.

The recipients of this year’s awards are:

Education Dr. Ilaisaane Fifita, Dr. Sisikula Sisifa, Tevita Tupou, Emeline Mafi, Sisilia Fakalata, ‘Etivise Ha’unga

Business Award Fonua Fuavao, Anthony Hala, Frankie Lolohea, Nuiafe Jr. Malupo

Sports Award Hemi ‘The Heat’ Ahio, Augustine ‘Mad dog’ Pulu, Lanulangi Veainu, Junior Fa, Solomone Kata, Tupou Neiufi, Elena Taiseni, Lemeki Namoa

Arts & Music Award Emily Muli, Geoff Siale, Thomas, Jacob Filipe, Louis Ova, Tiara Alatini, Selevasio Tuima

Community Award Veisinia Ha’unga, Sione Paea, Mele Tapueluelu, Tomasi Manase, Tevita Moti Uilou, Ofa Fakakovikaetau, Lemeki Namoa, Mele Tuipukotu Makisi Ha’unga, Mele Maka