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Telekalafi Likiliki image

Telekalafi is thankful for the support and guidance she received throughout her studies and working towards recreating that 'nurturing space' in her role as UOPISA President.

Almost halfway through her term as President of the University of Otago Pacific Islands Students’ Association (UOPISA), Telekalafi Likiliki is honoured to be supporting others as she herself was supported.

The association’s goal is to continually support Pacific students’ needs and aspirations, while acknowledging the past work that has enabled them to exist and do so, Telekalafi says.

“Everything we do is for the students.

“Our executive wants to do right by those who were in these positions before us, who put in the mahi and invested so much to create what UOPISA is today.

“Their work is the good foundation we strive to maintain and improve on by attending to the modern needs of the Pacific community at the University of Otago, so they are supported academically, emotionally, spiritually, and culturally.”

Most of the association’s executive leadership are wāhine, which has made for a “nurturing” space where tauira know they can be heard and helped.

Coming into her presidential role in UOPISA, Telekalafi was motivated to create a space that was inspired by the quality of support and guidance she received throughout her studies.

Impassioned with the desire to support Pacific communities’ health, she came to the University to study medicine thinking this was the “only way” she could do this.

After spending some time learning about all the University has to offer and receiving support from those around her, Telekalafi decided to complete a Bachelor of Health Sciences, majoring in Pacific and Global Health and minoring in Pacific Islands Studies.

“At high school, there were many students planning on a health professional pathway at Otago and so that is what originally directed me towards medicine.

“However, during my second year I found I wasn’t enjoying anatomical studies very much and was encouraged by a staff member to take a paper on Pacific Health in the context of Aotearoa New Zealand, which I absolutely loved.

“That guidance inspired me to switch degrees in my third year of studies and I’ve never looked back.”

Now, after being elected president, she hopes to show the same support to Pacific students and her fellow executives as was shown to her.

She shares a memory verse from Jeremiah 29:11 as encouragement to students who might be feeling as unsure as she was.

“Know that there is always a plan for you and your future  – plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Thanking those who have come before, Telekalafi plans to do her best carrying the mantle before it moves on to the next person and their aspirations for the future.

Kōrero by Division of Health Sciences Communications Adviser Kelsey Swart

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