Faith Led Pacific Wellness Programme Wainuiomata

Perise Iupeli’s enthusiasm is catching, she’s lively, energetic and at the time of sharing this story was working for Pacific Health Service Hutt Valley (PHSHV), where she was involved in the creation of Wainuiomata’s Faith Led Wellness programme.

As she speaks, passion shines through her voice and she believes in a values-based approach, with deficit thinking never part of the plan. ‘As Pacific people, we honour and take great care of our church buildings and other people, but often we put ourselves last.  We use biblical scriptures as the basis for our programme to encourage and empower our people to honour the bodies that God has given us; as we are strong people of faith in the Pacific community.’

PHSHV’s vision encourages all people to live longer, more productive ’WOW’ lives. The community proudly embraced the programme from the start as it brought together a cluster of churches for Pacific families sharing a common vision. Four words: ‘faith’, ‘food’, ‘fitness’ and ‘family’ are interconnected and underpin all aspects of the programme.

Perise’s description of the programme is similar to some of the principles of the Fonofale developed by Fuimaaono Karl Pulotu- Endemann which shows the Samoan fale or house to incorporate a Pacific way of thinking about health. The Fonofale model incorporates the metaphor of a Samoan house with the foundation or the floor, three posts and roof encapsulated in a circle to promote the philosophy of holism and continuity. The Fonofale model is a dynamic model in that the all aspects depicted in the Model have an interactive relationship with each other.

The programme began at the start of 2017, and the momentum increased to a peak with ‘Moving March’; which was a month of physical activity where ‘champions took the lead and congregations got active’.

Church ministers have taken the lead in advocating change from within and they have been a powerful influence on the programme design.  Having a minister encourage nutritious food options and regular physical activity for church families, has set the scene for others to also make changes when and where they can. Young adults have become nutrition and physical activity instructors and ‘it has been exciting to see leadership blossom, while seasoned elders have led by example throughout’.

Serving delicious healthy food on a budget has been a breakthrough with successful role modelling from PHSHV and Te Awakairangi Health Network. Perise explains a number of outcomes ‘We now see fruit, nuts and hummus at youth group gatherings, housie evenings have less consumption of cakes and biscuits, and there is a healthy breakfast after Zumba. A master-chef cook off with a traditional Samoan banana pudding called Sua Fa’i was a highlight, and local dignitaries were invited to judge the transformation of a dessert traditionally high in sugar, into something a lot healthier. Encouraging water only functions is an example of how the whole system has changed.

Using existing skills and resources from within the community, has enabled the programme to be sustainable long term and a lot can be achieved when a whole community works together. ‘The faith of our people is the foundation and this will never change over the long term’. says Perise.

Working together as a collective of different denominations is a new experience and it’s been so successful that a similar model is being used to create a similar programme with the Tongan community in the Hutt Valley.

‘There are many things that can’t be measured with a programme like this such as a shift in mindset or the WOW factor that shines through people. We are excited for the community’s continued passion in Wainuiomata, through the Faith Led Wellness programme as they go from strength to strength, and faith to faith; in empowering each other to take care of themselves spirit, soul and body’ says Perise enthusiastically.

Find the Wainuiomata Faith led Wellness programme on Facebook.

Author: Alison Pask, Activity and Nutrition Aotearoa, September 2017