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Subject matter experts and prominent New Zealand leaders share their knowledge and engage with the audience, sparking new ideas and innovation as minds from different backgrounds converge and focus their energy on a salient issue or theme.

Getting Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable

Written by Nora Swann, Fashion Stylist, Director, Mentor of Dressed in Confidence


As Retreat Four (Va Tagata - The Realm of the Interpersonal — Politics, Power and Relationships) of The Mana Moana Experience approached, I had mixed emotions on what to expect. Firstly, although I was going away from home, I felt I was still there because it was in my hometown of South Auckland, so the familiar surroundings created a sense of routine for me towards the upcoming trip.

Second of all, I was chosen to host Louise Marra on behalf of Manava Lua and as an introvert, I knew I did not speak as eloquently as my peers, so I mulled on it up until I had to speak. I was feeling quite unsettled and challenged yet comfortable as I had become accustomed to these types of scenarios. In the end and as expected it wasn’t as scary as I had imagined.

And thirdly, as a creative entrepreneur I was looking forward to the overall theme of retreat four — Va Tagata — as business is all about people and relationships and there were a number of amazing guest speakers from a range of professions coming to share their stories with us.

Vui Mark Gosche’s speech stood out for me especially when he mentioned the importance of Pasifika ‘getting a seat at the table’. As a freelance fashion stylist who also works in social enterprise I have been very fortunate with the blessings that have helped my small business grow. I’m that lady that looks ‘extra’ amongst a sea of neutrals, looking awkward in the eyes of others but feeling comfortable in her own skin. I am grateful for the opportunity to be a voice for Pacific fashion and will continue to push for the fashion industry that I am passionate about.

On day three we were asked questions that made you really think about who you are in different settings. The realisation of the importance of the movement I stand for suddenly dawned on me. I never really saw it as anything significant as I see myself as a person who is chasing a dream, who constantly comes up against hurdles, finds a solution, celebrates the win (whether it be a project or growth in self-development) and soldiers on.

As an entrepreneur who is living that 24/7 lifestyle with a passion, the timing of the Mana Moana schedule has always been impeccable as it allows me to take a break from the hustle and be surrounded by like-minded Pasifika people.

I appreciate how The Mana Moana Experience has been able to create a learning environment that identifies Pasifika characteristics as strengths, understands the psyche of Pasifika people and is working towards fostering Pasifika people – this has been the ultimate standout for me personally.

I have learnt so much thus far from the Mana Moana journey. It has pushed me to do things I have never done before. It has helped me form a stronger love for Pasifika and it has forced me to go to places internally, that I preferred to keep locked away not only from the outside world but from myself and I have found great value in all these teachings.  

I left Retreat Four on a high, feeling empowered and re-energised, ready to take on the world once again thanks to the Mana Moana aiga.

Did Nora’s story resonate with you? This is one of many purposeful and profound experiences on The Mana Moana Experience. Are you a mid-career Pasifika leader in New Zealand who cares for the future of this country? Then we invite you to apply for our 2020 Programme - we’re accepting applications now!