PM’s Pacific Youth Award motivates past-recipient to inspire others

posted: 11:00 pm - 8th June 2019
Joyce Toleafoa

Back in 2011, Joyce Toleafoa (pictured) collected the Inspiration Award at the Prime Minister’s Pacific Youth Awards (PMPYA), and what the young woman has accomplished in the years since, has been nothing short of inspirational.

Joyce was just 15 years old when her father died.

She knew she would have to secure a part-time job to help her mother out, so Joyce got a job at Pak'n'Save near the family's home in Manukau where she stayed working throughout university.

Joyce, who was 19 at the time, was one of three Inspiration Award recipients in 2011, presented to young Pacific people who acted in a way which inspired others in their community.

She was studying towards a Bachelor of Education degree majoring in Teaching, specialising in Primary School Education so she could help young people achieve great things.

Fast forward eight years, and Joyce says since winning her award, she has done many different things.

“I pay homage to the Ministry for Pacific Peoples and its Prime Minister’s Pacific Youth Awards initiative for giving me the motivation to keep succeeding and inspiring others.”

It was always an aspiration of Joyce’s to work abroad, and since August 2018, she has been living and working in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Joyce graduated with her Bachelor of Education in 2013, and that same year used the $5000 awarded to her as part of her award to travel to Vanuatu.

“There I spent one month working in different primary schools and I also helped to build a water tank on Moso Island to help a village who had no direct water source,” she says.

The following year, Joyce gained her Postgraduate in Education, and began teaching Year 5 and 6 Samoan Bilingual students at Otahuhu Primary School.

In 2016, Joyce returned to her old high school - Auckland Girls' Grammar (AGGS), where she taught Junior Samoan and English.

“But then in December of 2017, I got offered a two-year contract to teach in Dubai, UAE.

“This was a primary school position so I left AGGS at the end of the 2017 school year to go back into the primary classroom to prepare for my new journey.”

After spending the start of 2018 teaching Year 7 and 8 students at Glenn Innes’ Pt England School, Joyce made the move to the Middle East to start her teaching contract and she is currently teaching Grade 4 students at the Emirates National School in Al Ain, UAE.

Joyce says it has been a full-on journey, but since winning her award, she felt she needed to keep giving back to her community, as well as trying to inspire Pacific youth.

“On top of focusing on my career, I got married; have been heavily involved with church ministry; and also community theatre shows.

“I give all praise and glory to God for directing my path.”

Applications for the 2019 PMPYAs, which recognise excellence and outstanding achievement by Pacific youth in New Zealand, are now open.

Any young person, aged between 17 and 24 years, and who is a New Zealand resident of Pacific descent can apply HERE.