A personal connection with Totara Hospice gives Head Youth Ambassador Fangafua Po’oi passion and drive for her new role.
This year marks a very special time for Year 13 student Fangafua Po’oi – it is her last year at school and her first year as Head Youth Ambassador for Totara Hospice – the next step in a very special connection with Hospice for her and her family.
Fangafua helped with her first Totara Hospice event four years ago, the annual Long Lunch fundraiser. A self-described “people person”, the now 17-year-old enjoyed the work that went into staging Hospice’s biggest fundraiser of the year and continued to help out.
Just months later, her uncle became ill and went into Totara Hospice for care. She said it was at this point she understood the importance of what Hospice offers. “We could relate to the actual services that Hospice provided and got a better understanding of the importance of palliative care. From thereon we just had that connection with Hospice and have stuck with it ever since.”
Fangafua takes over from previous Head Youth Ambassador Rosie Kennedy, and will now oversee the group of students aged 11-19 who help with fundraising and raising the profile of Totara Hospice in its local community. The programme began in 2013 and last year the team won the Youth Health Volunteer Award as part of the Minister of Health Volunteer Awards, which recognises the contributions of volunteers to the health and disability sector.
For Fangafua, there is the satisfaction of knowing her efforts are making a real difference, but also the opportunities it brings her. “I love socialising with people older than me, because they are adults that we’re dealing with and serving; I love hospitality. The experiences that we gain from Hospice, meeting people from the corporate companies and learning how to talk to them is very beneficial as well.”
Part of her role as Head Youth Ambassador is to encourage other young people to join the programme, which she is passionate about, but says can require changing preconceptions about what Hospice is. “We say, ‘You know Hospices are more than just places that cater for people who may be terminally ill. They look after not just the wellbeing of the person going through that journey, but the family as well.”
That family aspect is at the heart of one of her first events as Head Youth Ambassador. Fangafua is looking for sponsors for a ‘Kids of Hospice Day’, to help fund 75 children to attend a day at Rainbows End. “It’s for kids who have lost loved ones through Hospice to give them that day to get away, from not just reality, but to relate to people on the same level and just have fun and to create more connections and more friendships with other people, even in the youth programme as well.”
She says her message for other people her own age is that you never know whether you will need Hospice. “My journey is a perfect example. Starting out helping with Hospice I didn’t expect any of my family members to need that palliative care, so I felt lucky at the end of the day… they offered that care for my uncle that our family couldn’t. I can’t wait to get out there and do more for Hospice at a different level with this new role.”