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Tongan Radio on Auckland Airwaves

Tonga on the airwaves

Esther Lauaki, East And Bays Courier

Tama Ohi FM station manager Keith Moala

MAKING WAVES: Tama Ohi FM station manager Keith Moala is keen to reach out to youth and people living with disabilities through a new radio station in Panmure.

Keith Moala has experienced extraordinary success and travelled the world to learn from experts in his field.

But he says the one thing missing was "being able to work with my own people".

The former telecommunications engineer has now found what he was craving as a presenter for a small Tongan radio station based in a vacant Panmure shopping complex.

Tama Ohi FM went live on July 23 from Hobson Drive, drawing about 200 members of the Pacific community to the launch.

Mr Moala wants the project to reach out to Tongan youth and people with disabilities in the area and deliver positive messages over the airwaves.

"I feel the future of this radio station is in bringing the community together."

He moved to New Zealand to care for his elderly mother in 2009 and worked as a social worker for a stint which sparked his passion for working with youth and the disabled.

Tongan culture is deeply rooted in religion and Mr Moala's original idea was to attend different church services in Auckland and broadcast the sermons.

"A lot of our physically disabled people can't make it to church or are too ashamed to come so we would do that for them so they receive the message on the radio."

He also understood the challenges associated with culture shock when emigrating from the Islands and saw a need for guidance among youth around him.

"Most of them group together and go in the wrong direction.

"I think some of the youth of today are spiritually disabled. They are fit physically but they are weak spiritually," he says.

"The aim of this show is letting them know they have a purpose in life and giving them a reason to develop.

"A lot of young people are listening to the wrong messages and they feel like they have no purpose but we want to work with them. I wanted to use technology to change the lives of people."

The station has formed some valuable friendships so far with Queen Halaevalu Mata'aho naming it Tama Ohi, meaning "adopted child".

Only royals can name companies in Tonga.

"My mother is good friends with the Queen so we went along with some food and gifts and she gave that name.

"The Queen thinks of disabled people as her children and in turn they feel royal because they believe they have been adopted by the King. It also has a strong biblical significance for us because we are adopted into God's family too so we use that as our guide," Mr Moala says.

What started as a 15-minute programme on Access radio a year ago has grown into a non-stop Tongan language show with sermons, music, interviews and community notices.

Tama Ohi FM airs around the clock from Panmure to Mt Wellington on 87.7FM.

- East And Bays Courier

© East And Bays Courier August 3 2011.

This material remains © Fairfax New Zealand Limited and is only to be used for non-commercial personal or research use. Any other use requires permission of the copyright holder.

For a current list of all Low Power FM stations broadcasting in New Zealand, visit our NZ LPFM Radio Guide.

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