When we asked for nominations for Awesome Aucklanders, the name ‘Dave Letele’ was mentioned more than any other. He is somewhat of a legend in the South Auckland community. Inspired by his own journey to get his life back through health and fitness, Dave set up BBM (Buttabean Motivation), a platform made up of online programmes, free community bootcamps and a Facebook group that now has over 15,000 members. For Dave, BBM is all about providing a safe, judgement-free space for people to come together and be surrounded by positivity.
When COVID hit, Dave decided to use his platform and connections to take his community work to a new level and set up the BBM foodbank to support vulnerable whānau. “I believe that if you can help you should. It dawned on me that anyone struggling before COVID would be drowning now. That was my trigger for starting the foodbank.”
With the support of corporate partnerships, supermarkets and donations, Dave managed to drum up a lot of support and has been scaling up ever since, especially throughout Auckland’s latest lockdown.
“I leased a warehouse, and on the first day of lockdown we did 2,000 lunches. Overall, we’ve helped over 30,000 individuals this lockdown alone.”
Dave and the BBM team also started a community kitchen to educate and empower people to cook healthily on a budget. “Although lockdown stopped us from doing what we’d planned with the kitchen, we still used the facility to make meals. We looked after one particular school with 100 free meals a day, knowing that after school, some vulnerable kids go home to no dinner.”
As if that wasn’t enough, Dave has also supported community vaccination events and teamed up with a Samoan doctor to try and tackle Covid vaccine misinformation through Facebook Lives.
The BBM team of 10 is super busy right now, and one of the main focuses for Dave is keeping the team mentally healthy, which they do through exercising together and talking. “The stuff we see can be mentally draining. We have to remember that we can’t help everyone and that’s okay. We’re just doing our best with what we have.”
Dave is always on the hustle to get more food and money to support his community and his work will continue throughout lockdown and beyond.
“I believe in giving back, serving my community and leading by example. So many people helped me when I had nothing, not expecting anything in return, so I’m just paying it forward. I aim to be a positive influence in community and show people that there is hope.”
We absolutely tautoko the words of one of Dave’s many nominators: “Thank you for your awesome heart and mahi for the people around Tāmaki Makaurau, providing thousands of families with food when they needed it most. Your work has lifted so many whānau through this difficult time.”