Radio531 PI Flower Talanoa

Radio531 PI Flowers

Samoan barber inspiring troubled youth in Hastings

29 August 2017

Posted in: Pacific Radio News,

A local Samoan barber in Hastings is providing a space for troubled youth to hang out and feel safe.

Peleti Oli started Somehz Touch Barbers in Flaxmere, after he lost his brother to suicide. 

He says the loss has driven him to reach out to Pacific youth who are in a vulnerable place.

"Losing him was a wake up call for me especially because we're losing a lot of our loved ones. 

"A lot of youth come in to hang out and just chill. It's a place where they can feel themselves and not feel judged," he says. "I try and speak to them on a level where they're not threatened."

Somehz Touch Barbers gave free haircuts to Hasting Boys High Schools First XV Rugby team last year. Photo/ Supplied.

New Zealand has reached the highest recorded annual figure for people dying from suicide. The Chief Coroner Deborah Marshall released a figure of 606 people who took their lives in the past year ending in June.

Maori have the highest rate of suicide, followed by European and Pacific people.

Oli says he's trying to inspire the young people in his community to address the issue and encourage them to ask for help. 

"If I can spark their minds to wake them up to do something in life that they enjoy, like I enjoy barbering, then that's a goal achieved for me."

Oli received the Pasifika Community Impact award at the Got A Trade? Got It Made! Industry Training Awards last week for his contribution to his community. He says it's been a humbling journey.

"Running a barber shop and starting from nothing," he says. "My family being Samoan in a poor area, we know what it feels to have nothing."

Oli says he didn't receive any formal training and to be recognised at the awards among engineers, builders and plumbers was an honour.

"I did the whole garage thing because Youtube wasn't around," he says. "I didn't think it was a trade that could be compared to engineering. It was a privilege."

Peleti Oli (left) and one of his clients. Photo/ Facebook.

Somehz Touch Barbers has relocated closer to the city but Oli says he's still doing his part, to better the lives of those in his community.

"I'd go to youth events where I'd talk to them and tell them that I grew up the same way they did," he says. "It's powerful when you can sit down with the young ones and speak to them on the same level that they understand."

Oli now offers apprenticeships to young people in his community, helping them to get qualifications in his field of expertise.