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Pacific community's resilience inspires Samoan, All Black Legend

All Blacks legend and co-founder of the Village Community Services Trust, Laáuli Sir Michael Jones, says Pacific people have the resilience and compassion to rise above the negative online comments targeting the community after it was revealed that the majority of new COVID-19 cases were from Pacific families.

In a statement released by the Pasifika Medical Association Group, Laa'uli talked about the effects of the negative online comments. 

“The comments are unacceptable," he said. 

"It hurts us and impacts each and every one of us. It shows that COVID can bring out the best and the worst in people, where there are profiling and the reaffirmation of ignorance and all the ugliness that goes with it.

“But for our Pasifika people, it’s how we respond and use that criticism to help mobilise us, to look after and protect each other. Hopefully, in the process, we can educate and demonstrate to the rest of society that it’s not about the person or the family but about the reality of how this virus can affect any culture or creed.

"We know that one thing that Pacific people are good at is showing our alofa and compassion. It’s these parts of our DNA and our culture that is inherited within us and will be at the forefront.”

Jones, who has played 55 tests for the All Blacks, is one of the community leaders providing direct support for the Pacific community during the pandemic. Through The Village Community Services Trust foodbank, a community organisation he founded with his wife Maliena, Jones helped distribute more than 2,700 food parcels when the country first entered Alert Level 4 lockdown in March this year.

“We had to respond and mobilise quickly and ramp up our own abilities to provide for the increasing need and demand. As a Whānau Ora provider, under Pasifika Futures, having those connections was fantastic and allowed us to respond immediately," he said

The Village Trust foodbank, which is based in the Auckland suburb of Avondale, continues to provide for Pasifika families and has been experiencing their highest levels of demand in 17 years of operation. Jones says the ability to feed families during an economic crisis is extremely important.

“When the basic needs of your family are not met, it spirals into a whole lot of other areas and becomes a trigger to a whole lot of things that work against our families and their wellbeing," Jones added

The food bank is a family affair for the Jones clan. Wife Maliena manages the centre and Jones and his 20-year-old son Niko volunteer to distribute packages to families.

“We’re living in this reality. We feel that we can bring our energy, our hearts and our compassion, to lift up our people during this time," Jones said 

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