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‘Warrior, Advocate, Friend’: Tributes flow for Tofilau Yolande Ah Chong

Samoan broadcaster and social advocate Tofilau Yolande Ah Chong dies, aged 55.

Ruci Farrell
Ruci Farrell
Published
02 April 2024, 12:13pm
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Samoan broadcaster, TV personality and MC Tofilau Yolande Ah Chong is being remembered as a vibrant voice in the Pacific community.

Tofilau died last week after a long battle with cancer, and is being laid to rest today after a requiem mass in Auckland’s Henderson.

A family service was held last night, where Kelston MP Carmel Sepuloni called her a friend to many, a social connector, political activist and someone who was never too scared to speak out and advocate for her community.

“It seems so unfair that you have been taken so young … West Auckland is a little dimmer today without you spreading your sunshine across Ranui and beyond.”

Tofilau Yolande Ah Chong and John Pulu hosted the Pacific Music Awards in 2022. Photo/Facebook

Tributes have been shared worldwide for the 55-year-old, recognising Tofilau as one of the Pacific’s most "prolific media personalities".

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Tofilau Yolande Ah Chong fronted many Pacific events and was well known for her quick wit, great sense of humour and memorable comebacks, immortalised on the "dramedy" Fresh Housewives of South Auckland.

Over the last five years Tofilau worked at Cause Collective advocating for Pacific families in South Auckland. Chief executive Rachel Enosa says it was a job she lived and breathed.

“We will miss you around the office and the many roles you played in our team. From mother and mentor to comedian, dancing queen, matchmaker, chief mocker, straight talker, storyteller, change agent, thinker, brave warrior, and our sister.

“She believed in the power of hope to change lives and to bring light into dark places in our communities. She was passionate about giving hope to people's situations and that they could change that situation, even if it felt that they were forgotten by the system. She saw them, we saw them and they mattered to her.

“People know Tofilau for her quick wit and her sense of humour, but I do believe that that quick wit of hers was underpinned by an incredibly clever, analytical, and astute mind."

Enosa says Tofilau’s faith deeply influenced her work, and others around her, calling her a hero and inspiration to many.

“Even though she did not receive her physical healing, she found healing in her work. And as the time came, she said to me, even if she did not receive her miracle, she was ready for the next phase of her journey.

“At times, it was hard to watch our sister in her battle. Many times we had asked her if she wanted to stop work, but her answer remained the same every time. She would say, 'No, working in the community is the strength that keeps me going'.

Tofilau played an instrumental role at Pacific Media Network, fronting Niu FM's Gospel show on Sunday mornings in 2004. She then moved into the promotions and events team before becoming 531pi's breakfast host from 2009, and then language programme director from 2015.

Ia manuia lau malaga Tofilau.