A strong faith drives a helping life
There are many people who volunteer their time and effort to help in ways that may seem to them as a normal process of life. Siosiana Taukolo (Ana for short) is one of those people. With Tongan heritage and a splash of Samoan, Ana is a mother of four, a wife, a daughter and a professional social worker as well as a coordinator of eight community kitchens based in Auckland.
Being of Pacific descent and having a strong Christian faith founded on God, Ana openly talks about her volunteering role as a Pacific person. She talks, also, of the things she has experienced in her church community kitchens and how giving back to her community is a vital part of her walk in life.
Pacific people are greatly led by faith, cultural values and the view that we are a part of a collective. So naturally volunteering is something we do automatically without a label.
At a young age, Pacific people are taught to help those around them, as they are based in a system that contributes to their village. Ana shares that in general, the collective point of view plays a part in why there are many Pacific volunteers.
“Being Pacific people with a faith belief background, we automatically find it normal for us to serve.”
Having faith also supports Ana in what she does as a coordinator for the community kitchens because she believes firstly, “for me, I see that I’m not just serving people, I’m serving God.”
Furthermore having a faith foundation Ana states, “biblically it says 'how you reward a good job, is you get more work'. So once you do good work, you get more work and that's the mentality.”
Some of the common challenges that affect volunteers is burnout. Volunteers well-being is an aspect Ana is very aware of and the effect of overworking and the need for self-care is very important to her as a leader. Having regular catch ups with volunteers and staff is a secure way of making sure everyone feels safe and heard.
Ana talked about how being burnt out is a common issue when there isn’t a relationship or a space to talk about concerns. Ana says “I’m not about getting the work done over and over again. It's about sustaining them (people), so then they know their purpose. So that they feel they are being valued. It's a big deal for me with volunteers.”
The need to show volunteers that the work they do is appreciated and the importance of recognition is vital for anyone who is working in any field. As people we need to be valued.
In this area Ana talks about the crucial need of acknowledgement to volunteers and how holistically they are being impacted. “When people are “go go go” where are they filling their [own] cup from? We all serve in our different areas, but I think church is one thing where I think we don't question; because we “do do do” and then we come to a point where we ask “why am I tired, why am I doing this like this?
This is the moment when you dig deep to understand what your WHY is. Why did you choose to serve in that area? and if there needs tweaking, there needs to be something to be discussed. Use that place too, don’t just hold it. I’m always checking in with our volunteers “ hey is there something we can improve on” I always ask that question”, Ana states.
The importance of what drives you, your “WHY?” is something that can always bring you back to what was your main purpose/reason to why people start volunteering. Whether it be because of your faith, wanting to make a change in your community or even the simplicity of just giving back (having a part to play). Knowing your “why” centers a people.
Ana is a true reflection of her faith and servant hood to her professional job and the communities she helps. This is shown in the way she lives her life, to give back to people.
Her ending conversation shows her heart for growth for service. Ana finished our conversation with the following “I’m enjoying working for the church, I feel that it's filling my cup up all the time. That's more important to me than my bank, money doesn’t give value to myself ... because it just comes and goes straight into the bills. As we grow older we start to change our prospectives and our priorities in life.”
Showing kindness and making a positive change for everyone is what Ana displays in the community. I am grateful I was able to have the oppotunity to talk to her.
Written by Melinda Ah Yek, Unitec Student, Bachelor of Social Practice, June 2022