Be Human

– By Lemalu, Sia Toomaga –

My name is Lemalu, Sia Toomaga, and I am Samoan born.

To be human is to be on a journey – in Samoan, faigamalaga.

A journey to discover your own kaupapa, and to find ways to live it out. At DCM, we talk about picking up the paddle – ki te hoe. For me, that’s a journey to becoming and to being my best self. We call the people we work with taumai, meaning ‘to settle’. You could say that to be human is to be on a journey to a place where you are settled, where your wairua (in Samoan, agaga) is settled.

When you are part of a team at a place like DCM, you not only get to create something beautiful with taumai, but to learn more about yourself: who you are, why you are, how you see the world and the people around you. To be ‘somebody’ is not to have letters beside your name, a smart home or lots of money. Let me tell you about a ‘somebody’ we are working with. He is a father; he was homeless, sleeping in a dry, warm space under a rock down on the waterfront. But wherever I encounter him he is intact, whole. He is valued – wherever he is at, wherever he lives, however rich or poor he is. This man is now housed; he has reflected and is committed to change. He has learned what he needs to do to sustain a tenancy, he is prepared to give rehab another go and he wants to do the right thing for himself and his children. He has not given up hope, and as he becomes more settled, both this man and his children are lifted up (te hāpai), as am I.

So many people like our taumai are in prison, in psych wards or in the grave. I am in a privileged place where I can be part of something significant, something that creates change. But this change happens in partnership with our taumai: tuku atu, tuku mai. In Samoan we say, tu’u atu, tu’u mai: we do it together.

As humans, we all have a kaupapa, a set of values that define us; it can take a while to discover your own kaupapa. To be able to work at a place where the kaupapa is totally in sync with your own is very special. I have worked at other places that ‘talk the talk’, but here at DCM we ‘walk the walk’. Just as we ask our taumai to do, we reflect, we change. I especially love the way we lift up Māori, welcome Māori, are led by Māori. Our team is diverse, just as our taumai are diverse. More and more of our taumai are coming out as Pasifika, chatting to me about that part of who they are.

Yes, what I love most is that we manaaki everyone, we live it out here at DCM – and that’s not only true to DCM’s kaupapa, but true to how I want to be as a human. If I had to boil it all down to a single word, it would be aroha. That’s my kaupapa, that’s DCM’s kaupapa. To give and receive aroha – that is what it is to be human.

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Words by Lemalu, Sia Toomaga of DCM. Illustration by Natasha Vermeulen

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