Featured Member: Suli Autagavaia, Author & Language Program Designer

What kind of work do you do/business do you run?

My work is my vocation.

I design, deliver and evaluate English language programs for adult migrant and overseas students.

I serve on the board of the Vegan Society of Aotearoa, New Zealand. I’m responsible for the Pasifika Outreach projects and the Vegan Magazine Pasifika column.

In 2019, I published my first book, Animal Voices: Letters from Their Hearts to Yours It’s a nod to the compassionate selfless animal activists and the farm animals we seek to liberate. I write for them.

The book continues to fulfill its purpose in the world, that is, planting seeds of change. The slog was worth it!

What do you love about it?

I love making a difference in people’s lives – migrants who arrive to a country with hope and courage in their hearts, to start again and give life a red hot go!

I take that inspiration and help them gain something bigger than just language and literacy – the communicative competence to thrive in a new culture and smash their personal, academic and work/business goals.

I’ve impacted the lives of students and their families throughout my 30-year career – from gaining entry and graduating tertiary and vocational education; securing and maintaining the dream job; to setting up and managing a business.

So, what do I love about my vocation? Empowering people to realize their potential and celebrating their successes with champagne. A lot of champagne.

What’s your ‘why’ in life? What drives you?

Veganism is at the core of everything I am and do.

As a middle-aged vegan Pasifika woman, I model a happy, healthy, purposeful life without harming animals and the environment in as much as humanly possible.

Ending animal suffering and exploitation is my ‘why’.

Why are you a member of VIVAS?

Because it’s time I stopped playing small.

I am part of VIVAS for people in my life but I need a VIVAS – a network who can inspire and empower me to go higher!

When I peruse the VIVAS website and its resources, I feel uplifted and motivated.

One day, my own knowledge, skills and experience can be of use to other women in this network and beyond.

What’s been the biggest highlight or ‘wow’ moment of your career/business/professional life?

TESOL training across Asia.

My heart sang on every flight to the ‘exotic’ destination; excited for the opportunity to make a difference in the professional lives of non-native English speaking teachers.

They humbled me. I worked so hard for them.

The biggest highlight of my career was returning home from each ‘mission’ with a glowing heart and expanded mind.

How do you handle failures, fear and disappointment?

I curse myself, god and the universe; cry the ugly cry and then I bounce back.

One of my strengths is a quick recovery from disappointment andfailure.

I grieve, bless and release, take the lessons and move forward. This is me.

What would you tell your 16-year-old self?

“You can be a writer when you get older because you already are.”

I love writing. Always have. I’ve been journaling since I can remember.

I’d win the yearly fiction writing competitions throughout high school, receiving book shop vouchers which my mother used to buy school stationery and books for me and my siblings.

Despite this wonderful cash injection every year, not once did my migrant parents encourage me to pursue a writing career.

It wasn’t even on their radar, or anyone else’s. My English teacher marveled at my essay writing but never suggested I could study it further or make a career from it.

As a result, I moved to the capital to study law and linguistics for no good reason.

I look back at the 16-year-old me with compassion. “Write on Suli. Write on.”

Which women inspire you and why?

HUMAN – My fellow female board members of the New Zealand Vegan Society.

Their love and commitment to creating a vegan Aotearoa inspire me to do more, be more and achieve more.

We share a common mission to spread the goodness of veganism to people who are open to the journey.

They organize their lives around what they need to do to assist individuals, communities and businesses on their vegan journey. They inspire me.

ANIMAL – My female totem animal is the cheetah.

She sits up high on a hill, perusing the horizons for opportunities and threats.

She is a single parent, raising and protecting her cubs alone.

Giving up isn’t an option in the wild and against all odds, she rises.

She inspires me to be brave, to survive and thrive. Cheetahs inspire me.

What’s been the biggest obstacle you’ve faced and how has it helped mould who you are now?

Leaving my marriage.

I had to dig deep and leap frog over all the obstacles associated with such an event.

I had buried myself. The fun, creative, activist screamed so loud, I couldn’t ignore her anymore.

Uprooting my family and country broke my heart as I overcame the biggest obstacle in my life: fear.

I’m back now.  Free to write, advocate for animals, be vegan and listen to ABBA whenever I f****n  want to.

What’s your super-power? What are you amazing at?

My superpower is my energy. Not the physical kind but the kind that lights you up.

I’m amazing at seeing the potential in people and helping them believe in themselves.

What brings you joy?

Solitude. Writing. Empowering humans. Saving animals. Cheetahs thriving. Veganism. Yoga. Cocktails. ABBA.

How do you define success, and how will you know when you’ve achieved it?

Success brings me to my knees. Literally. It’s my habit.

That’s how and when I know, I’ve achieved something of significance.

It’s literally when I’m on my knees in relief, disbelief or  gratitude that I realize what success is – having provided quality work, created ideas, persevered, overcome challenges, helped others or stayed on task.

After a few deep breaths and reflections, I rise acknowledging another rewarding lesson.

What’s your vision for yourself and your business/career for the future?

Firstly, a strong thriving vegan Pasifika community in Aotearoa.

Secondly, my second fiction book will be out in the world early 2022.

Its themes will spotlight the hidden, voiceless victims in family and domestic violence. Watch this space!

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