Lise Hope-Suveinakama: Tokelau Language, Vaccines, Business, and Keeping the Faith

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Faith is a guiding light for Lise Hope-Suveinakama in a journey that began in Tokelau, then a move to New Zealand to further her studies attending Wairarapa College onto completing a double degree in Arts and Law at the University of Waikato. Lise then returned to her homeland to take on roles within the public sector representing Tokelau around the world, working as the Senior Legal Adviser for the Tokealu government, Judicial National Coordinator, and National Coordinator for Women.

Lise has embarked on another part of her journey returning to New Zealand with her family. Lise continues to serve as a strong advocate for the Tokelau and wider Pasifika community and is actively involved in community groups; the Tokelau Toa Trust, and Mulihelu Atafu Trust. 

Lise is in the process of gaining a certificate to practice law and work as a barrister in New Zealand. Maintaing her passion for the law, she works as an intern trainee with Pacific Legal Immigration Law in Auckland and has created her own business as the principle director of Olatia Consulting Ltd. While building her business, Lise also works as a translator and interpreter. 

Language continues to play an integral role for Lise reflecting on the importance of encouraging her community to learn not only the language but be proud of their  culture and customs. As Te Vaiaho o te Gagana Tokelau – Tokelau Language Week celebrations draw to a close for 2021, Lise says she is proud to see youth involved in the celebrations and can see a real desire for youth to speak the language.

“I was blessed and so amazed at our young people, our children, they all came on [Zoom] and introduced themselves in Tokelau and also going to the extent of giving the genealogy of their ancestors, where they come from, and who they are related to. That was great to see.”

Tokelau language has been designated as severely endangered by UNESCO United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation. Lise says a lot of work needs to be done and says the youth are the future and everyone has a part to play to keep Gagana Tokelau alive. On a personal note, Lise also accepts she needs to do more to teach her own children the language.

Our language must survive and we have a responsibility as parents, as communities.Lise Hope-Suveinakama

Language also plays a powerful communication tool for the Tokelaun community to learn about the COVID-19 global pandemic and the importance of vaccination. Lise has been active working with the community to keep them informed. She is proud to see community leaders working on the coal face during the pandemic.

She says the conversation continues to make sure the community have the correct information in order to make an informed decision. Lise is aware that there are still people among their community that are skeptical about getting the vaccine.

Despite the concern Lise encourages people to come forward and talk to the experts and ask questions about the vaccine and what is involved. “We should not leave our people behind us, to our young people we need you to take part and be responsible to save New Zealand.”

Alongside her work keeping the community updated with the latest COVID-19 information, the mother of five continues to grow her business plan during the lock-down. She says it has been a time of growth and an opportunity to step out of her comfort zone.

“When I arrived to New Zealand I was trying to figure out what to do and thinking that I have come here with a lot of experience… but oh boy, so I have to learn a lot of new things and I am still in the process. I’m a student transitioning into, you know, this environment.”

Lise is excited about the next step in her career. She is encouraged by her mentors and support from family and friends and for Lise, her faith is her guidance.

I’m not alone in this journey. I’m very early in terms of building the right structure for my company and connecting and reflecting on my business plan and also listening to my advisors, but most importantly to God. I keep telling my children, ‘he’s my business partner’Lise Hope-Suveinakama