When asked about the Student Vigil Oki and others organised after the events that occurred on March 15th last year, he pauses for a moment and then begins to tell me why and how the student vigil came to be.
“It was Friday night only a few hours after everything had happened. I was just sitting there thinking that something needed to be done. So I created a group chat with only a few of us and decided we should do a bake drive or something. By Saturday afternoon we were delivering baking to people, the ambulances, staff etc. and we actually had the opportunity to go to the hospital and drop some baking off.”
Oki in his humbleness failed to mention, that 140 young people baked and delivered baking on the Saturday following the attacks.
“Then on Sunday morning I was sitting there thinking that there needed to be something to bring young people more together during this time. So I threw the idea out to a friend. There was obviously the organised memorial, but I wanted something different. A different way to bring people together, something for just the young people of Christchurch.”
He pauses in thought and reflection,
“I literally didn’t think that there would be that many people who would come.”
‘We decided to have a circle in order to bring everyone together and to stand united. We had candles as well. What happened really affected a lot of our young people in this city and there needed to be something to bring them together, pay respect, and to show that we were united and that we actually cared”
A year on Oki organised an event called ‘Colour your day’ which happened a few weeks ago on Friday 13thMarch in the lead up to March 15th. This even was to raise money for St John and to once again bring people together.
“In January I was sitting there and realised that we were coming up a year since that event that occurred. We’d talked a lot at the vigil about the importance of being united and standing up and overcoming hatred with love. But I didn’t want it to be a one off thing. I thought ‘Now how do I sustain this?’ And an easy way to do this is was to bring people together again”
“There’s a national service on the 15th but it’s pretty adult led and not really a space for young people. So I thought, why not hold a youth service? Get people together and pay respect. This time around though I’ve been doing a fair bit of work behind the scenes. That’s where colour your day comes in, asking everyone to wear colour. I also want to empower other youth and students, so I contacted Burnside and Cashmere head students to see if they wanted to take a lead.”
“An event always needs something of an X-factor: so we’re doing the circle thing again, like the last event. We’ll also be doing a moment of silence and we’re going to organise the circle of young people into a Koru so from above you see a group of young people standing together. The Koru will I guess represent the unity of our young people in New Zealand – whilst we pay respect and reflect”
When asked if there was anything any core moments that have ignited this passion for young people and change Oki pauses.
“I’ve always felt like I didn’t belong. Growing up in school, especially in a high school of 2000 students I always felt like I was the minority. Like I had to find my way through the education system. That’s why it’s so important for me to stand up and share a voice and I found myself getting involved in a few things around Christchurch and at one event Josiah Tualamal’I saw me and suggested I attend Pacific Youth Parliament”
He pauses again, “That event gave me a whole new perspective on myself and life. I saw the world differently after that. I saw the importance in my voice”
“All I needed was for someone like Josiah, who had been on a similar journey to me, to tell me my voice was important. That what I have to give and who I am is valuable and needed”
“For me my life has been great. I am extremely fortunate to be bought up in a beautiful country, New Zealand and in Christchurch. It was always my parents dream to come to New Zealand, and they called it the land of milk and honey”
“You know growing up my family didn’t have everything, but despite this we always had a sense of community. Even when we were struggling my parents would always give something. Would always look outwardly. These are the moments that ground me, that remind me and have I guess shaped why I do and what I do today. You know the moments in life where you’re busy and uni seems to much and things seem overwhelming and I doubt myself and I feel like I can’t do this or shouldn’t be doing this - I look to those moments of when my parents would always give and the community we had and it keeps me going”
And I guess to sum it up there’s that quote,
“If not you, then who? If not now, then when?’ and that motivates me and I always come back to.
And you know 50-100 years ago my ancestors struggled, and I guess things are slightly better but our people still struggle, and in the future I wonder if when I have kids will they still struggle? And I hope not, and that motivates me too.
And when asked, “What do you love about Christchurch?”
Oki replies, “I think I kind of want to say the young people” and then laughs slightly.
“You know, it’s just cool and empowering to see real young and passionate people of all ages 12 year olds, 18 year olds, standing up for what their passionate about in this city and just doing stuff and changing things and making a difference.”