First coming to New Zealand in her late teens, for most of her life Pacific Homecare client Faivalu Aiolupotea was known by her sister’s name ‘Pepe’. It wasn’t until she reached the pension age that she took steps to reclaim her birth name. We share her story
Growing up in Savai’I, Samoa, Faivalu was the youngest of six children.
At the age of 10 she moved to Apia to attend one of the best colleges at the time, Samoa College. She remembers you had to prove yourself academically to study there, and feels lucky that the good Lord blessed her with enough intelligence to attend.
She says her favourite memories growing up were of her years at Samoa College.
“They taught me well and the teachers and students at the time were great people who helped make great memories.”
In her late teens, Faivalu’s parents sent her to live with her brother and his family in New Zealand. Under age at the time, she travelled under her sisters name ‘Pepe’.
Soon after, she met her late husband Kirisimasi Aiolupotea (Kris) during rotations while completing her General Nursing Training at Middlemore Hospital. Marriage followed in 1967.
“My husband was a wonderful man so most of my favourite memories are of him and our children,” she says.
After having four wonderful children together, Faivalu went back to study teaching so that she could have more a flexible working life while still raising a family.
She says the choice worked out really well for the family, and she was able to make lots of happy memories throughout her family’s time growing up.
For most of her life, Faivalu was known as Pepe.
It wasn’t until she became eligible for the pension (on paper at her sister’s age of 65) that she reclaimed her birth name.
“I said to myself ‘no I can’t do this, I have to let them know who I really am’ and so I began the journey to reclaim my birth name.”
All of Faivalu’s qualifications and legal documents were under the name Pepe.
“It took a visit to Samoa, talks with various lawyers, a visit with my local MP George Hawkins for Labour at the time, an eight page letter, and a lot of time and commitment.”
Faivalu finally got her name back before she actually turned 65, and she’s glad to say she is now officially known as Faivalu Aiolupotea and no longer Pepe, a journey that took more than forty years.
As they aged, the couple decided to seek more help. Throughout his life, Kris hadn’t always been well, and Faivalu had always lovingly taken care of him. Then the Aiolupotea family became clients, first with Kris and now with Faivalu.
“As age crept up, I felt I needed help, so I put in a request through my doctor for assistance,” she says.
“After completing their assessment, the needs assessor provided me with a list of Homecare providers. I chose Pacific Homecare because they were Pacific Islanders looking after Pacific Islanders so I felt they could understand our wants and needs better. This way we could communicate in our native tongue – Samoan.”
The family has had a long term relationship with Pacific Homecare, and Support Worker Meaalofa Va’a helps with personal care, household tasks, and shopping.
“The cultural matching works really well for me. When Meaalofa comes in I can talk to her in my language and that makes me feel very comfortable and happy,” she says.
Faivala also attends the Samoan Fia Ola programme and enjoys going to Church Senior Group in Manurewa where they play all kinds of games, cards and bingo.
Sadly, Kris passed away last year. The couple were married for almost fifty years.
“We had a wonderful love story and it really affected me when he died last year.”
She likes to spend her time out in the garden doing some light gardening, going for walks in the mall, socialising and picking up her grandchildren up from school.
Plus, she says “Meaalofa is excellent for me”.