Faith Advisory Board (FAB)

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By: Sina Uipi

In Tongan society, the church is the center of the community. It embodies the very entity of our religious beliefs along with our cultural customs and values. I refer back to my childhood, when I use to spend a lot of time at church, which is also the birthplace of my leadership journey. I was a young, first generation, working class Tongan-American girl who was trying to make sense of the intersection of faith, spirituality, cultural traditions, progressive ideology, social justice, politics, and so much more. I am grateful for all the lessons, experiences, and opportunities I have had of attending church camps, youth retreats, and leadership programs throughout my childhood. It gave me amazing relationships I built over the years, and it truly was the foundation of my confidence to become a great leader. And now I have finally made some sense of it all.

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I have come full circle on this purpose or calling I have questioned and was unclear about for so long. I still feel empowered by the same lessons I learned ten years ago at a leadership institute, which challenged me to think and see the world beyond my church, my education, and my family. So what do I with it and what does it mean now? It means that it’s my turn to empower, educate, and have faith in the next generation so that they can become great leaders. It means providing a space for young people to tell their stories and validating those voices. It means getting the support from church leaders and church members to work together as a community in order to create positive social change in a place such as Lennox, which has a history of gang violence. It means working with city officials to create safer parks where all our communities should have access to without being fearful. It means advocating for local markets to sell culturally relevant food in areas where it doesn’t exist. APIOPA has given me the space to do so through a project known as the Faith Advisory Board.

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The Faith Advisory Board (F.A.B), is emerging to bring forth a group of youth leaders from the different denominational Tongan churches in the Lennox, Hawthorne, and Inglewood areas of Los Angeles. We will build strong and faithful leaders, just as my mentors did for me as a leader on the rise. It is crucial that we form a safe space to foster the power of young leaders because those space may not exist at times. I will empower them by telling them they matter and will help build their confidence because they are already amazing. I will listen to their stories and ideas because they are important. I am a teacher, a student, a friend, a resource, and a leader for the F.A.B. We are creating programs that promote healthy and active living for our Tongan congregations, and will educate churches of the resources available to help cure and prevent chronic illness, disease, and obesity. Through the F.A.B, we are passionately working hard to create solid relationships with churches and provide all the resources that are available to us to ensure sustainability in the long run. In addition, we are establishing close relationships with other partner community organizations and local law enforcement to work together in order to fight for safer and healthier spaces.The energy of the momentum so far has been quite fascinating and I look forward to the unraveling of something so beautiful in the near future.

For more information, contact Sina Uipi at suipi@apiopa.org.

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