O le ala i le pule o le tautua.
The path to authority is through service.
I absolutely love this quote, shared by the über-talented John Belford-Lelaulu at a schools event today. John was there to inspire year 12 Pasifika students from across Auckland, but he also captivated teachers and other staff who were in the auditorium too.
As “Chonny”, John shared his journey of growing up in a large and often complex Samoan family. Despite being raised in a deeply religious family, through circumstance he experienced many challenges and witnessed violence of varying kinds.
Attending De La Salle College proved a turning point (or nearly didn’t, as he potentially faced expulsion at one point!) and a serendipitous trip to an Aboriginal community in Australia whetted his appetite to make a true difference in the world.
He followed his strong interest in design and completed Architecture studies at Unitec. He challenged his thinking (and that of his lecturers) by pushing the boundaries on what constitutes Pacific architecture. His thesis project Le Malofie’, presented an architectural interpretation of Samoa’s traditional tattoo.
His work is aesthetically beautiful, culturally respectful, and convention breaking.
Further trips to New York, the Phillipines and Samoa brought him in contact with diverse, generous environments that fostered a happy medium between design, architecture and humanitarianism. He now champions a movement towards social architecture and is leading initiatives to encourage more young people to join the change.
The 100 or so students in the auditorium were transfixed by his words and his visually arresting images. This is someone, who not even 10 years older than them, is showing them that the next generation of Pasifika New Zealanders ARE changemakers.
Learn more about John: