PIK2AR: Providing Positive Change for the Pasifika Community
Content warning: This article addresses issues of domestic violence. Please take that into advisement as you read and share.
150 S. State
801.793.4639 | pik2ar.org
When Susi Feltch-Malohifo’ou moved back to Utah 10 years ago, she found something that troubled her. In the 20 years since she’d last lived here, little progress had been made in and around addressing domestic violence within the Tongan/Polynesian/Pacific Island community. She and her husband, Simi “Poteki” Malohifo’ou, began a quest to educate themselves, which led to the creation of KAVA Talks (Kommitment Against Violence Altogether) and PIK2AR (Pacific Island Knowledge 2 Action Resources).
“Our programs, events and services are an ecosystem that is built on the foundation of our Pacific Island values—God, church, family, community, restorative justice and reciprocity,” says Susi. “We are about it! Our delivery of services and processes stem from the positive Pacific Island cultural norms and traditions.”
KAVA Talks is a monthly Tongan/Pacific Islander, male, domestic-violence advocacy group. Their mission is to help raise awareness about domestic violence and to provide the necessary resources to those who need it. The KAVA circle provides a safe space to discuss personal and governmental issues. In the past few years, it has expanded into providing sexual-assault prevention and healing resources.
Although originally started as a men’s group, PIK2AR now also offers a program called Women’s EmpowHERment that meets each week, offering different groups for women of all ages. They also offer a group open to all women, regardless of background or location. These are now offered virtually due to COVID-19 health guidelines. PIK2AR also offers 24/7 support with access to case managers and community health workers.
“If they were going to solve this problem in our community, the men who are the majority of the abusers had to stop, and men within the community needed to hold men accountable.”
The impetus for the creation of these programs was the pairing of Susi’s own experience with domestic violence in a previous relationship and Simi attending the Asian American Pacific Island Violence Prevention Conference in San Francisco. “He was motivated by the thought that women can do anything (a Tongan cultural value, women rank higher than men), and if they were going to solve this problem in our community, the men who are the majority of the abusers had to stop, and men within the community needed to hold men accountable,” Susi says.
PIK2AR also provides support and promotion for the arts through Pasifika Enriching Arts of Utah (PEAU). Their programming includes monthly, online demonstrations of traditional Pacific Island cooking; a weekly, online writing group called PEAU Lit; and Utah Pacific Island Film Series, which offers free Pacific Island films. In 2012, the Governor of Utah declared August as Utah Pacific Island Heritage Month; during this time, PEAU highlights all the Pacific Island communities and educates on the similarities and differences between the cultures.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone, and the Pasifika community has been seriously impacted. PIK2AR has been working to alleviate some of the challenges of this time. “We have distributed $20,000 to Pacific Islanders that have had a death in their family and/or contracted COVID … in $400 increments for rental assistance, free internet for six months, distributed 150 computers to school-aged children, created two culturally relevant COVID PSAs in three languages, created a PPP/EIDEL webinar in three Pacific Island languages, [are] currently distributing COVID Care Kits and children’s winter coats and will begin educating and distributing rental assistance anywhere in Utah,” says Susi. PIK2AR also offers Pacific Island Business Alliance (PIBA), which supports socially responsible micro-enterprises and small businesses.
“My passion is to walk with others, to help others find their higher ground, to find their value, their voice, their confidence to live their best life.”
Susi recently ended her six-year tenure with the Utah Cultural Alliance. There, she joined forces with other members of the Board of Directors to help fight systemic racism, with the intent of making Utah arts more inclusive, accessible and equitable. “I am a Community Health Worker,” Susi says. “I love working with grassroots community members and began as the UPHA [Utah Public Health Association] Co-Chair a few months before the pandemic started. Community Health Care workers have proven their value and strengths during the pandemic. We possess skills and tools that are not taught at universities, and if they are, many cannot apply them because the strengths of a CHW are their experience of living in their community, [having] built relationships; [they] are trusted; many are bilingual and understand their cultural norms.”
If anyone wants to get involved with PIK2AR, they can volunteer, participate in the programming, volunteer as a Board member of the Advisory Council, mentor, teach a skill or promote PIK2AR to others. More details on these opportunities can be found at pik2ar.org.
One may wonder how Susi manages to be so prodigious in her contributions, but likely only until you hear her describe herself in her own words: “I am a trans-racial adoptee, ex-felon, overweight, woman of color, serial micro-enterpriser that lives with a mental illness that has survived domestic and sexual violence that received Utah’s FBI Director’s Community Leadership award,” she says. “I love people, and we live in one of the best countries in the world with many opportunities to be who we want to be. My passion is to walk with others, to help others find their higher ground, to find their value, their voice, their confidence to live their best life.”