She also wanted to share how even in the face of tragedy you can follow your dreams and make a difference in the world.
Meri Ira, who was born and raised in Opotiki, experienced first hand the struggles and challenges of living with a loved one who had Type 2 Diabetes. From the beginning health professionals encouraged Meri Ira, her husband and their whānau to eat better and exercise more but the reality was that their lifestyle did not change and as a result her husband's health declined.
Five years later in 2006, Meri Ira's husband was diagnosed with renal failure which meant that his kidneys could no longer filter waste products from his blood, as a result every two days he had to undergo dialysis (where a machine helped do the job that his kidneys could no longer perform). This five hour treatment along with constant visits to doctors, specialists and the Middlemore Dialysis Unit soon filled the family's daily schedule.
"I nursed him throughout this period", explains Meri Ira softly, "at the same time I was also caring for our six tamariki, and at times it became almost unbearable, the challenges were huge and took a toll on us emotionally, physically and financially.
Sadly, in August 2010, Meri Ira's beloved husband passed, a day she says, her whole world fell apart. "I lost my best friend... My children lost their hero, the man who they would always look up to and admire. It's not until you have lost a partner, a husband, a father that you understand the heartache."
Being close to a supportive family became key and in November that same year, Meri Ira moved her whānau back home to Opotiki to be closer to her Mum, Nan and extended family. Meri Ira knew she had to find a way to heal, she put her and her children on the "Growing through Grief" programme and slowly began the journey through their sadness, loss and grief.
"This programme helped us immensely to unite us and awhi each other through our hard times. My children became my inspiration to become strong and independent. They helped me believe in myself, by encouraging me at the times I felt empty and lost."
The strength Meri Ira found in herself, in her children and those who supported them through their darkest hours was immeasurable. It was a journey that allowed Meri-Ira to dream and take steps towards making her dreams a reality. In 2013, Meri-Ira moved her whānau to Rotorua to follow her goal of becoming a Registered Nurse, she is now a second year Bachelor of Nursing student at Waiariki Institute of Technology, when she graduates she hopes to specialise in the field of Diabetes.
Most recently, Meri Ira efforts have been celebrated and she is now the proud recipient of the New Horizons for Women scholarship. The scholarship was awarded to Meri-Ira by the New Horizons for Women Trust, a charitable organisation that was established in 1991 to provide grants for women in New Zealand to develop their potential through encouraging, fostering and promoting opportunities for their education or training.
As part of her training Meri Ira completed a five week practicum with Korowai Aroha Health Centre. "For us it is a privilege to get to know our student nurses and hear stories about how they came to start their nursing career. What really stood out about Meri Ira is the way she cares for patients – her ability to practise her profession using the skills she acquired from nursing her husband and consolidating the learning from the nursing education. I feel very proud for Korowai to have been a part of her journey", says Korowai Aroha General Manager, Hariata Vercoe.
Reflecting on her journey, Meri Ira says this, "I was amongst five other inspiring women who have put their heart and soul into their studies. It was an honour to be acknowledged for all the hard sacrifices my children and I have had to make over the years. To have come this far is incredible and I look forward to each new day."