Thursday, July 14, 2011

[pima.nius] Ethnic acceptance helps tame California's Pacific youth

11:28 AM |

Ethnic acceptance helps tame California's Pacific youth

Updated July 14, 2011 08:08:25

Teenage Pacific Islanders running wild is a problem in their own countries, New Zealand, and in California where there's a large islander population.

In San Francisco's Bay Area they've trialled a summer camp to introduce the teenagers to their culture and connect with their ethnic identities as a means of overcoming the problem.

Camp Unity as it was called offered Samoan language programs, courses on traditions, history and geography and performing arts from around the region.

Presenter:Geraldine Coutts
Speaker:Manufou Anoai, San Mateo County Commissioner on the Status of Women

ANOAI: Some have requested that they wish it was longer to we as a staff, but this being our first roundabout and this being our pilot program, we do look forward to it being a longer program. But seeing as it's been successful, seeing that a lot of the kids that we have been able to keep off the streets who become participants in this program, we've seen a change and a transformation in many of them and they've really committed to the program. They've really latched on to the language inversion programs in particular.

COUTTS: Alright well this was the first camp, how many kids were in this one, Camp Unity?

ANOAI: 168.

COUTTS: Well that's a lot, and have all 168 had problems with the law or whatever and is that the qualification that got them into the camp that was necessary, that they were troubled?

ANOAI: It actually wasn't a qualification, but what it was is we realised that it was an issue, so the outreach was to those families who felt that their children were disconnected from their culture, but in addition to families coming forward that they had issues with their kids, either truancy issues in school or behavioural issues or even law enforcement issues. So I say probably about 70 per cent of our participant involvement has been from participants with that background.

COUTTS: Now the 168 children how many would you say were actually born in the US and how many were born in their respective countries and have wound up living in the US?

ANOAI: I'd say right now we calculated 65 per cent are some California, but most of them have travelled here and are now residents, very recent from both Samoas and from Tonga.

COUTTS: And which group would you say, those that were born in the US or those who are new arrivals are having more difficulty with this issue of culture?

ANOAI: Actually the ones that have recently arrived are having the most difficulty. For some reason we feel that they are the ones that have been encountering problems with law enforcement, have a higher tendency to be truants in school, and we think that they've just been trying to prove themselves and blend into this urban culture. But what we've done is we've tried to build that bridge where they can stay connected to their identity and embrace it and still be part of this new culture that they've become a part of here in America.

COUTTS: Well how did you do that in Camp Unity? How did you show these youth how they can be connected to their culture and still survive if you like in the new culture?

ANOAI: I think they really caught onto our creative writing and our Pacific empowerment class, which is all facilitated by Pacific Islanders. And so that on its own I think was a huge barrier breaker, because many of our students never had an instructor who looked like them or could speak their language. So that was something that immediately was appealing to them. And we've got wonderful facilitators who engage them consistently on a daily basis where they've really opened up and shared their views, and how they felt about trying to fit in. And through that interaction we've been able to address those issues and assist them through our staff, and also introducing cultural song and dance and Pacific history has been something else that has been very engaging for them as well, because a lot of them didn't know about the Fa'atasi Mau movement. A lot of them do not realise there's two Samoas and that there are some issues that there's disconnection. And that I think has been something that has broadened their perspective as Islanders and really opened them up to take a sense of pride as far as who they are ethnically.

COUTTS: Well when the youth in Camp Unity were expressing their views, what was some of their thoughts coming through, what were they saying?

ANOAI: Some of them said they didn't want to be an Islander, some of them even communicated they didn't, initially did not want to be a part of the language class. They didn't think that it was something they had to hold on to. So we saw the barriers of assimilation for us because we were trying to tell them that this was important. So when we started doing conversational Samoan exercises, I think the cultural component kicked in and we kind of said hey, you've got to participate. So that push from a cultural perspective where we enforced their participation, forced them initially, but when they thought everyone else their age engaged and enjoying it, they got on too, and they totally enjoyed it. They go home speaking Samoan, and the parents have been overwhelmed, the parents who some of them don't speak Samoan anymore themselves. So to have their children come home and speak Samoan to them has been amazing.

COUTTS: A youth program of a similar kind was run in New Zealand and they found that by encouraging the students to wear lava lavas to school and the statement I guess was saying I'm Samoan and proud of it. They had a huge breakthrough in the behaviour of those students who wore their lava lavas. Did you also look at dress and that side of culture?

ANOAI: Yes, yes, we actually encouraged the youth of the lava lavas because we felt that it was something that was across all of the Pacific Islands, it wasn't something that was just Samoa because we do have students who are from Tonga as well. Some students showed up the first day with the lava lavas on, and daily they've been coming with their own lava lavas and they wear it. In fact one of the components of our program is the aufei feau which we incorporate the chore process and the cultural tautua process. So every meal we have the manepule come in but we also have a core group of individuals which changes daily wearing the aufei feau, and they immediately grasp to that knowing that part of that you had to wear the lava lava. So knowing that and understanding it it's been wonderful because they totally get it, and they totally embrace it.

COUTTS: How long are the camps going to be, how many days do they spend in these camps?

ANOAI: We've run the camps for four weeks in this Friday is our finale here in San Francisco. But we will continue to offer year round programs and we look forward to next year being a longer camp.

COUTTS: And is it necessary to have more than one or do you think one camp per student is enough?

ANOAI: No we feel that there has to be more than one because there's such a huge community that hasn't been touched demographically because of where we're located. And we have three sites locally that will be opening up next year, and this was by invitation. We also have request for a curriculum from Seattle, Long Beach, Las Vegas, Phoenix and Salt Lake City, which we all look forward to seeing their launches next summer.


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pacific islands media association
pima.nius@gmail.com
aotearoa, new zealand
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pacific islands media association
pima.nius@gmail.com
aotearoa, new zealand
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The pima.nius googlegroup is a facility for discussion and distributing information. Content sent by this googlegroup are forwarded from various networks and media publications.
 
DISCLAIMER: These emails are unedited and discussions made through this googlegroup are unmoderated. Announcements made through this googlegroup do not constitute endorsement for the organisations, individuals or opinions featured. Please check the integrity of organisations and individuals before exchanging personal information with them.
 
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