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Samoans push to set up N.Z. disability ministry

A Samoan-Tongan girl who lives with a disability is leading efforts to get the New Zealand government to create a ministry for people living with disability.

The Chair of the New Zealand-based group Tofa Mamao, Lavinia Lovo, told Tagata Pasifika in an interview of the difficulties that Pacific islanders face while living with disability.

"Being disabled is hard but being Pacific and disabled, that’s even harder so they don’t get the equal opportunities that everyone else gets," she said.

Tofa Mamao is championing an online campaign to get the New Zealand government to create a ministry for people living with disability.

Aiga AJ Pouoa, the owner of RYZE Fitness and also a member of Tofa Mamao, supports the idea of having a government ministry for people living with disability. 

"If we had our own ministry for disabled people, we could be at the top of our list and people with disabilities and get to things faster, they can get to equipment faster," she added.

"Joined Tofa Mamao this year and she is one of the country’s only personal trainers in a wheelchair and at her gym she helps disabled people gain strength again."

Seven-year-old boy Zacchaeus Maiava, who was diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy just before he turned three, is currently being assisted by Tofa Mamao since he and his parents moved back to New Zealand.

His father Tau'ili'ili Alpha Maiava says his son's condition meant that as he grew older, his mobility and the full function of his arms and legs would reduce, and he would become dependent on a wheelchair and walker to get around. 

Zacchaeus, who is of Samoan heritage, was born in Dubai and the family had to return to New Zealand in order to get the necessary support. 

His mother, Falepau Maiava, said it was heartbreaking knowing there won't be any more improvement in her son's conditions and that he won't get any better. 

Tofa Mamao is providing support to Zacchaeus and his family. It was established to cater for Pasifika families who have members living with disability.

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