Former Vodafone Warriors Jerry Seuseu and Ben Henry are firm believers that violence is not part of Pasifika culture.
The ex-rugby league players are new ambassadors for Le Va and want to make a difference in their community. The organisation supports Pasifika families to have the best health and wellbeing outcomes.
Le Va’s Fathers Fono, funded by ACC, helps Pasifika fathers know their value and raise thriving families. The programme aims to equip fathers with skills and tools. These enable the fathers to have healthy consensual and respectful relationships. These are embedded with Pasifika values.
“Being part of the Vodafone Warriors and New Zealand Rugby League (NZRL), we feel it is very important to connect with organisations that are about empowering our people,” says Seuseu, the NZRL's wellbeing manager.
“Le Va is one of the strongest organisations out there. So we’re happy to partner with them to make a difference.”
Henry is the Vodafone Warriors' player wellbeing and education manager at the Warriors. He didn’t hesitate in getting involved.
“We want to give back,” he says.
“And winning over our young folk. That is the main drive we get from our leadership within our church. It is being down here with the old and the young.
“Le Va is an organisation that supplements that, so I wanted to be involved. Getting down in the community in the grassroots at a clubroom like this is something I’m passionate about."
"It's all about building relationships”
The pair were in action recently at a Father’s Fono workshop at the Bay Roskill Rugby League Club in Auckland.
“The workshops are designed to build pride and confidence around being a Pasifika dad,” says Charles Lavea, senior project coordinator for the Fathers Fono programme.
“But this is more than just a workshop. It is a community of fathers that are equipped with tools to be better Pasifika men and parents. We talk about the true intent of our values and emphasise that violence is not our culture.”
Seuseu says they are proud to be part of the workshops and share their own experiences.
“We go into the community and we talk about what it is to be an engaged father,” he says.
Henry says it is important to have honest conversations.
“It’s all about how to be a better father and giving time to your kids,” he says.
“It is building relationships. As fathers we are out there in the workforce, in the community, and sometimes our children are at home and suffer because of that."
Seuseu and Henry say being a father is a demanding role requiring support.
“The most challenging thing about being a dad is the fact that we are on all the time,” he says.
“It’s a responsibility but it’s also a privilege. I consider it an honour that my children are watching me. They are watching my example and seeing how I deal with things and how I come back from things and react to mistakes.”
Neither Seuseu nor Henry claim to have all the answers. They both make mistakes but they are committed to being the best parents they can be for their whānau.
“The best advice that I can give is to seek guys who have already done that,” says Henry.
“Older gentlemen who are wiser. More experienced. That’s the best advice I could give. I ask my Dad all the time: ‘How did you raise us?’ He gives me some sound advice.”
Seuseu adds: “We also need tools. We are not born champions when it comes to being fathers. So it's important to get out there and get tooled up and Le Va’s Fathers Fono programme is a good way to do that.”
Leaning into their faith
For Seuseu and Henry their faith is their blueprint to how they live their lives. It was a central part of their rugby league careers at the highest level. Without it they would be lost.
“Getting our mandate from God’s word on how we raise our children is a godsend for my wife and me,” says Henry.
“And also having other leaders and men, and families around us who have taught us how to raise up the next generation has been tremendous for us.
“My parents and church leaders raised us up to honour the Lord first and also to treat people with respect.”
Seuseu adds: “As a man of faith I believe that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. That is the foundation to how I live and how I act as a father.”
Seuseu grew up in South Auckland where domestic violence was a reality.
“Whether it was my neighbours or relatives or siblings, we were very familiar with what is called the 'fasi’ [Samoan slang for a smack or to get a hiding]. These days we are looking at different ways of parenting,” he says.
“This is important work”
Seuseu and Henry know things need to change in Pasifika communities. The statistics are not good reading.
A 2016 Auckland University study looked at the health and wellbeing of secondary school students. It found young Pasifika people were twice as likely to be physically punished compared to Pākehā children.
Seuseu and Henry want to play their part in creating long-term change.
“Education is a big part of that,” says Seuseu.
"We need to look at tools and strategies and awareness pieces that we can take into the community. The more we can do the better.”
Henry adds: “It is hard being a father, so we need to talk about it. It is having relationships. Being relational with our children. That is something that can go a long way in the Pasifika community.
“To see ACC supporting this work is fantastic”
ACC provides funding to Le Va to help prevent violence in our communities.
Le Va NZ’s first national Pasifika spearhead service focuses on primary prevention. This covers family violence, sexual violence and suicidal behaviour for young people.
The service equips Pasifika young people and their families. It gives them the right knowledge, skills and attitudes to prevent violence. It does this by providing evidence-informed and relevant education, training, resources and tools. It is tailored to the meet the needs of Pasifika communities.
“ACC teaming up with Le Va is fantastic,” says Seuseu.
“For them to get into our communities and help prevent violence. They are two great organisations. It is essentially why we at the New Zealan Rugby League and Vodafone Warriors wanted to team up with them.”
Henry adds: “Rarely do you see big organisations get involved at the grassroots level. They were behind most of my injuries growing up.
"So it’s also good to see them funding prevention initiatives in our communities. They are giving people the support they need in this area.”
The investment into Le Va is part of a wider injury prevention initiative. Over the next four years, ACC is investing $44 million to establish a sexual violence prevention system.
For more information on Le Va and the Fathers Fono visit them below, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information visit: Le Va