Tokaima’ananga Sports Day – fāmili, fun, and a marching band

For the past two years, Healthy Families South Auckland has been on a mission to understand what are the compelling reasons that motivate people to move in South Auckland? We’ve visited dozens of schools, worked with various community groups, such as our MAP Collective, to help understand the key ingredients that drive physical activity.

We aim to support grassroots groups in getting active in ways that suit them, advocating to local and central government, regional and national sporting agencies/organisations, to better support them to move in ways that they have determined for themselves.

The Tokaima’ananga Ōtara Methodist Church Sports Day on February 10, 2024, held at East Tamaki Rugby Club in Ōtara was another reminder of the unique ways in which local people engage in physical activity in South Auckland.

Fun, famili (tongan word for family/families), a marching band, and the Tongan culture were on full display at the sports day, which attracted over 150 parishioners from the church.

Sam Haunga, Pulelautohi (Sunday School supervisor), was the team lead for the organising committee and remarked that it was the first time in 20 years the church had organised a sports day.

“Tokaima’ananga Ōtara Methodist Church is a special place for many of us. It’s like a second home. Having all our Sunday school teachers, children, and parents, even our brass band, has made this day perfect,” he says.

“Sport is a great way to connect our children, young people, parents, and elders – all generations of our church. Seeing them happy is beneficial for their mental wellbeing, and for them to be physically active by playing the sports and games they enjoy is wonderful. Touch Tag, Netball and Volleyball and other games like Heu, Tug of War, amazing!”

The event saw church members split into three teams – Green, Blue and Red – all participants wore colours to match and had to compete in seven different sports/games: Touch Tag, Volleyball, Track and Field, and other games like Heu (Tongan stick game), Tug of War, are amazing!”

The event saw church members split into three teams – Green, Blue and Red. All participants wore colours to match and competed and competed in seven sports/games: Tough Tag, Netball, Volleyball, Track and Field, Tug O War, Heu, egg and spoon race, and three-legged race. To kick off the day, the church brass band played a marching number, leading the three teams around the field in a procession reminiscent of an Olympic Games.

“A brass band is a key feature of every Tongan church. We love the music, we love the sound, so having our church brass band lead our people around the field was very special and shows how important our brass band is to us,” says Sam.

“It’s also great to create a space for children to play with their parents, as there are some families who don’t get that time to connect. Traditionally many parents work very long hours and are very busy. However, this generation, NZ-born Tongan adults who have kids, they understand the importance of sport in bringing families together by supporting your loved ones in sport.”

“Days like this help to support our church members, spiritually, physically, and mentally. Thank you to Healthy Families South Auckland for helping us to fund this event. It’s the first time in 20 years we’ve had a sports day and it’s been perfect!” says Sam.

Sam Haunga, Pulelautohi (Sunday School supervisor)

Healthy Families South Auckland supported the event by providing financial assistance to help Tokaima’ananga deliver it. The programme of the day was left to the discretion of the church to design and implement.

Pita Alatini, Lead Systems Innovator for Healthy Families South Auckland, notes that Pacific people love to move in their own traditional and contemporary ways of movement and sport.

“It’s extra special for me giving back to the community that I grew up in. Seeing all the parents and children enjoying this space, you can see the joy and excitement in their faces,” says Pita.

“When I think about our movement and sport space this is a critical part of understanding what makes people move in South Auckland. For Tongans and Pacific people, we like to move as a collective, as well as in a fun, intergenerational setting playing games and sports like Heu and the modern day like Tough Tag.”

“Church is a big part of our life and so we need to use the space to help nurture ‘the whole of a person, their faith, mental and physical wellbeing. This is where system stakeholders need to be aiming their resources and funds in environments where our people love to be,” he says.

*Tokaima’ananga Ōtara Methodist Church is located at 3 Ormiston Road in Ōtara.

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