How Latter-day Saints in the Pacific are serving their communities

Latter-day Saints throughout the Pacific have been serving and building their communities in unique ways. Read more about some of the humanitarian projects that have been completed throughout the last several months.

Fostering self-reliance In French Polynesia

Latter-day Saint Charities representatives were recently invited to see how a donation last year has been helping individuals who are visually impaired and blind in French Polynesia become more self-reliant.

Last year, Latter-day Saint Charities donated computers equipped with text-to-speech software to the Mata Hotu Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired of French Polynesia, which trains the blind and visually impaired how to use a computer.

The computers, which are equipped with specially adapted software that creates speech from any text, enable the blind and visually impaired to use a standard computer keyboard, explained Diego Tetihia, president of the association, in a Pacific Newsroom release.

Noella Sulpice, vice-president of the association and herself blind, showed the group how she uses the text-to-speech computer. “I want to make my dearest wish come true, to find a job in a private company as an office receptionist, for example. By following this computer training, I want to be independent on a computer. I can increase my employability as a disabled person and plan for my future,” she said. 

Latter-day Saint women use new skills to spread ‘brotherly love’ in French Polynesia

Through the Church’s Self Reliance program, individuals in Arue, French Polynesia, have been learning new skills to bless their families.

First, families from the Erima neighborhood took part in a Church-sponsored program to learn how to grow food, which included training on aquaponics, a system of aquaculture in which the waste produced by farmed fish or other aquatic animals supplies nutrients for plants. 

Afterward, the women from the Erima Ward expressed a desire to participate in a training course to learn how to sew.

Not only were they able to learn how to make clothes for themselves and their family members, but they put their newfound skills to use in making baby blankets to donate to new mothers.

“As we progressed, we wanted to help the community, by simply emphasizing the application of Christian values,” Vahinui Tuahu, a member of the Erima Ward, told Pacific Newsroom.

“We gave the baby blankets to new mothers. We didn’t just learn how to make blankets. We learned to bond with other people living in our community,” she said.

The Relief Society of the Erima Ward organized an event where they presented a few workshops, such as a cooking class with local recipes. Then they delivered braided Polynesian baskets containing face masks, a special baby notebook and a blanket to the community center, To Tatou Fare, which means “Our House.”

Teura Iriti, mayor of Arue, attended the event and said, “In this kind of partnership, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints brings that spirit of sharing and brotherly love that we all need.” 

Planting trees in Auckland

A group of volunteers from the Pacific Area Office recently completed a service project in the nearby Wenderholm Regional Park.  

About 25 volunteers worked to plant about 600 trees and shrubs on a steep hillside of thick grass in one of the 26 regional parks that surround Auckland.

Situated north of the city between the estuaries of the Puhoi River and the Waiwera River on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island, it covers about 60 hectares, or roughly 148 acres, and hosts camping, beach and picnic areas among other activities. It is also home to many native bird species.

Phoebe Steele and Sydney Olsen, community rangers for the Auckland Council at Wenderholm, told Pacific Newsroom that the planting project will help to diversify the vegetation which is important for attracting native birds and retaining moisture in the soil.

Julia Manuel, Auckland region assistant facilities manager and project participant, said, “One of my favorite Māori words is ‘kaitiaki as it sums up our responsibility perfectly as guardians for the land, sea and air. And being here shows the beauty of creation.”

Church donates winter pajamas for Kiwi kids

While a heat wave continues to engulf much of North America, residents of New Zealand are starting to layer up to ward off winter’s chill. 

As temperatures drop, Auckland-based Church employees and missionaries recently presented 200 new sets of winter pajamas and underwear to Foster Hope, which provides children in foster care with essential items as they transition into new homes.

There are more than 6,000 children currently in foster care in New Zealand many of whom must leave their homes with their belongings in a plastic trash bag.

“One of the reasons that we do this is that many of these children have never had a brand new pair of their very own, and knowing that someone has shopped especially for them is a huge boost to their self-esteem,” Louise Burnie, chairperson of local charity Foster Hope, told Pacific Newsroom. “We want this to be a positive experience as some children in care can feel a bit like second-hand kids themselves. Anything we can do to help them feel loved and valued is a huge part of what we do.”