“I was pretty sweet in life,” says Queenie. “I was just cruising along with my son and didn’t think we needed support. But we’ve benefited so much from my Whānau Ora plan. Most of it was centred around me and my son because at the end of the day it’s just the two of us. But I also included my family in my plan because they’re a big part of our lives and being with my whānau is the main part of my whānau ora”.
When Queenie started with Whānau Ora she was determined to increase her work hours. She achieved this goal and a new plan was created; however, Queenie says they stepped it up a level.
“One of my main goals was to get more work so I’d no longer require WINZ assistance. While I’ve found more work, I’m almost WINZ-free. I receive a small top-up which helps make ends meet, but I’m exploring new options with Leanne which will help me become fully independent and hopefully self-employed. My son’s going to be 18 soon, so we’re focusing on not only his career path, but maybe a new career path for myself.”
Her son’s schooling and education was certainly a critical item in Queenie’s Whānau Ora plan. She was firm that he received a good education – wherever it was going to be. She weighed up sending him to Forest View High School in Tokoroa, even though it would mean being apart from him for the first time in his life.
“Leanne and I created a ‘pros and cons’ list on sending my son to a school 30-minutes away. It was a big deal for me because we’d never really been apart. I was also hesitant for him to leave a school where he was doing fine. But I also had a bigger picture of getting him out of Mangakino and letting him know there’s more out there. It presented him the opportunity to be at a bigger school, with a wider curriculum, and more students. It offered more than was being provided here at the time.”
Queenie’s son has been a student at Forest View High School for three years now. Since being there, he’s achieved NCEA Level 1, and progressing on Level 2; obtained his learner’s licence; and recently helped carve the whakairo koruru for the whare tupuna at Waimahana Marae. Understandably, the whole whānau is extremely proud of his achievements.
However, getting to an out-of-town school hasn’t been without its challenges.
“When he first started the bus was $48 a week, which is what my cigarettes cost. So, I just had to stop buying cigarettes. It was only a cigarette but that was a sacrifice I made for my son to go to this school, otherwise it would be $50 from our groceries. That was part of the budgeting skills I developed through my plan.”
Queenie also engaged in an educational outcome through Whānau Ora, attending the local ‘Computers at Home’ course – a REAP, school, and Whānau Ora initiative. She encouraged her uncle to attend with her, and the pair learnt basic computer literacy and gained certification.
She has accessed the Whānau Direct grant of $1,000 per household per year twice during her five-year journey with Whānau Ora. She was able to get her son a laptop for school, as well as insulation for her whānau home. This was in addition to housing repairs funded by Te Puni Kōkiri accessed through the Whāre/Whānau Ora Project.
The whānau is grateful to be able to be a part of the Whare Ora Project.
“Our bathroom was bad, with quite a bit of black mould. One of the walls and toilet area had almost rotted away, and the washhouse on the other side had water damage from a leaky hot water cylinder. My son was getting a sore throat and the cold became problematic for my mum who suffers from arthritis.
“I was able to get the walls and flooring repaired, and they also replaced the cylinder and re-nailed the roof. I’m so grateful because we wouldn’t have been able to do it ourselves without having to take out a loan.
“During the project, I participated in home performance workshops on how to keep our home warmer and healthier, which was helpful. I started bubble-wrapping our windows, hanging better drapes, putting draft stoppers around doors, spraying vinegar on mould, and learnt about wrapping pool noodles around the hot water cylinder pipes.”
Queenie says she’s in no hurry to move on from the Whānau Ora. She’s now looking forward to learning about the Maramataka, planting and maara kai, as well as improving her Te Reo Māori.
“I’ve been able to achieve so much for my son, myself, and our home. Whaea Leanne is more than just a navigator – it’s more personal, she’s like whānau. I have a lot of trust in her and I’m encouraging my sister and mother to give it a go. Whānau Ora for me is about family, and so much other support I didn’t know I wanted or needed.
“I’d like to say thank you for all the support we’ve had and continue to get from Whānau Ora and Whaea Leanne.”