A Blenheim woman who returned to the region to get back to her Māori roots is helping others overcome adversity.
Growing up in Australia, Niki Waitai was determined to bring her family home to Blenheim.
Now the inspiring young mum is helping other women, some with mental health and addiction issues, to get back on their feet.
She credits Māori health provider, Te Piki Oranga, and industry training organisation, Careerforce, for supporting her while she learned on the job.
“We wanted our kids to have a sense of belonging, their identity, a sense of who they are. I missed that, being Māori in another country,” says Niki.
Although Niki says she wasn’t great at school, it was during her time at Te Piki Oranga, where she developed a thirst for learning.
She completed the New Zealand Certificate in Health and Wellbeing Levels 2 and 3 in just one year and is keen to do more.
“It was an awesome way to study. I really enjoyed the journey.
“Careerforce helped me to rediscover my desire for learning,” Niki says.
Niki moved to the new role of Pūkenga Manaaki (Whānau Navigator) within the Blenheim-based organisation a year ago.
She provides an intensive service that helps support vulnerable hapu māmā and whānau with personalised intervention.
“I am privileged to support mums, many of whom have an addiction of some sort, and/or may have mental health issues, often parenting alone, and living in chaos.
“I am really grateful for this role, it’s very rewarding to play a part in the lives of whanau who need awhi support to get back on their feet,” she says.
Niki helps women and their whānau. from maternity through to antenatal and childhood up to three years old.
The goal is to encourage resilience and self-management to achieve their own aspirations and goals, she says.
Careerforce Workplace Advisor, Paula Cohen encouraged Niki to enrol in the NZ Diploma in Health and Wellbeing (Level 5) Applied Practice.
“I was learning and then actively practising the tools I had learnt with whānau. It was very hands on,” says Niki.
“With applied practice, I was able to acknowledge and recognise what I had learnt in the case studies and apply it.
“I learnt about reflective practice and I’ve applied it on the job. It’s so important, it’s helped with my confidence, in working with whānau.”
Niki plans in becoming a social worker and will apply for a degree course next year.