You are on the vaka

You are on the vaka – you have the ability to pull young people from the water.

You might not be the captain, or the navigator (maybe you are ), but you have skills, you have your own experiences.

La tautai o se mata ‘alia. Let the boat be guided by an experienced helmsman.

In the midst of storm

In the midst of storm – it is up to you to ensure that the vaka is sailing. It needs to stay afloat. So too do we need to keep the basic going – showers, kai, washing, and sleep. Somebody needs to ensure that the basics are getting done.

Its about surviving

Once the basics are continuing – it is about keeping you safe – like the first rule of all first aiders is ensuring that you are OK.

This proverb warns us – Le va’a ua motu ma le taula – like a boat that has lost its anchor.

Te Taula – what is anchoring you, keeping you solid and safe.

Recognising problems

Now you are anchored it is recognising when young people are in deep trouble – in a storm everyone is grieving, everyone is wet and everyone wants out of the rain- but who is truly Anu Tahi.

You can only know this for young people you know.   The only real way to know is to check in with them…

Getting them to safety

Once you have checked in, its time to bring them on board the vaka and to safety.

If you are concerned you need to know what to do. Sailing in rough storms is not about reacting to everything.It is not a time for running around in the rain and wind, or for risking yourself.

Sailing in rough storms is about knowing what you need to do, and doing that.  It is about being clear and simple in your actions.

He ho’okele wa’a no ka la ino. A canoe steersman for a stormy day. Being purposeful in your actions.

Stay afloat

Now that you have prevented crisis, its time to get this team working together to stay afloat.

Waves from the base of the bow

In storms waves can swamp a vaka easily, peau tupu koso – waves from the base of the bow. –

People often are doing different things, and things can take a turn easily. One of the biggest challenges for families after the suicide of a young person, or when they are under serious stress is conflict and fighting. We know that increased fighting, and negativity increases the risk of our vaka becoming swamped.

Paddling together

As this proverb says,

“Tei roto tatau pouroa i te vaka ‘okota’i. Ka anoano ‘ia tatou kia ‘oe ki mua. ‘Akatika kite kaveinga ‘olota’i.

We are all in one canoe and need to paddle together to go the same direction.

Fixing Repairs

Sometimes this involves fixing things up – perhaps things have come loose in the storm, or are ripped or broken. Its time for you need to identify what may cause problems these are sometimes called risk factors .

Check out this website by Le Va Le Va FLO.

Le Va have listed the top risk factors for Pacific peoples click here to find out.

Creating a Safe VA

This is about Creating a safe “VA” – a safe space.

This space needs to be:


-Tolerant of all sorts of emotions

– Strong and solid.


Several things help a safe space to grow :

  1. Te Ama – (the outrigger) Your spiritual balance, preparing yourself spiritually for what you are doing, asking for help, guidance and wisdom, as they say “Te ama o te vaerua” – the outrigger of the soul.
  1. Te Taura – (the anchor/ropes) .  This is about knowing and planting your own feet on the ground or anchoring yourself, bracing yourself, and preparing yourself mentally for the challenge.
  1. Te Oe – (main paddle rudder).  The ‘oe determines the direction you are heading.  It is about having positive respectful intentions in all your interactions
  1. Nga Ra (sails)-   Being able to catch winds of positive emotions, Matangi lelei to ki ia mahaehae. Good wind falling in torn sail.   This is about being able to respond (not react) to the winds of the storm and the negative emotions of others – having some place to put those feelings.
  1. Te Tira – (mast) being strong and solid in this process – being calm.
  1. Te kaunaroa (hull) – being water tight, without holes.

Sail successfully with a good crew

When the vaka is strong and the VA is  well,  you can sail successfully with a good crew.

A good crew relies on people knowing their roles, what they are to do, working with each other.

Roles on board a vaka involve everyone knowing what they are doing, and working together. You don’t have to be everything to everyone right now – you just need to do your part.

Leadership is demonstrated in times of difficulty

Leadership is demonstrated in times of difficulty –  “Ma’ara e ka’ore te ‘atupaka o te vaka e puapinga teite manamana o te paunu o te ora.” The size of the canoe does not keep us safe , but the magic of buoyancy.

At times, leadership calls us to deal with conflict, fights, differing of opinion, and beliefs. Uncontrolled conflict creates risk.   As adults together on the vaka, it is so important that during difficult times, conflict is dealt with carefully and with respect.  This ensure that people are heard, but remain safe.

Resolving problems

Resolving problems

  • Recognise the difficulties.  Beware that like the wind the cause of a problem may not be what we think it is.
  • Recognising conflict – sometimes particularly when we are all stressed and emotionally vulnerable conflicts arise.  Conflict always has two sides.
  • Identify what is important to know at this time.  What is truly important and being able to let the little things go becomes important.
  • Create a safe VA to unravel the problems.
  • Find the right time.  During the storm is not always the time to resolve some problems.  Sometime this better done when everyone is back at land, or when the storm has passed.
  • Learn to Agree to disagree and respect each other for that this point in time is a very important skill
  • Learn to accept and let go.  This takes conscious thought and faith.


Sometimes we don’t all agree with each other. Fighting is not good, but is OK to agree to disagree. This is in itself creates unity, so that “Takanga ‘enau fohe” – Their oars move in unison.


The eyes of the wind

Our ability to work together, and be able to change course as necessary, adapt roles and change to fit is really important in working together, as we talk about “Na te mata o te matangi – the eyes of the wind – adapting to different winds and situation.

Now that you are able

Now that you are able, and have a space of safety, knowing when another storm is approaching is critical.

  • Kua tika te mata o te kotu’a, ki toona kauinga ‘enua The eye of the hurricane bird has set direction towards land

All storms have warning signs. Here is list of Hurricane birds that relate specifically to suicide

Are your kids:

• Talking about hurting themsleves? – just ask them

• Depressed? – What re the signs of depression ? crying, withdrawn, isolating, sad in lots of situations

• Using drugs and alcohol to cope with feelings – this increases risks, as people become unpredictable, reactive, impulsive and more up and down.

• Previously attempted? – have they already tried – take this seriously

• Got lots of stress – money, school, bullying, – Kids soak up the problems of those around them.  What stressors might they be feeling?


Ua faapopoo aso uua, ae le tuua aso folau.

There is a time for reflecting, there is a time for setting sail.

Assess the qualities of the day and the elements, and take action accordingly.