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Scholarship application provides formative experience for career success

Laura Tongalea Nolan has a simple message for Pasifika considering study in the Mental Health and Addiction space. “Get on that scholarship train,” she says. To be more precise, Le Va’s Futures that Work scholarship and mentoring programme.

A five-time recipient of Le Va’s funding and mentoring support, Laura has experienced first-hand the number of benefits the programme provides. Today, as she continues her study towards a Master of Health Practice, Laura is living and working her dream.

“From the outset my dream was to work where I could service Pasifika people,” the Pasifika Clinical Practice Lead for Odyssey Trust says. “And when I first applied for Le Va’s Futures that Work programme, the application process really prompted me to think about what I wanted to do with my career.”

A pathway for Pasifika support

Laura came across the Futures that Work scholarship in 2014. “I was looking at doing further study, but didn’t want to take out a student loan,” she recalls. “When I found the Futures that Work scholarship, I put an application together and was successful.”

At the time of her first application, Laura reflects on being young and new to the workforce, which made completing parts of the application challenging. However, that challenge proved to be a formative experience in Laura’s career.

“The application asked ‘what am I contributing to the community and how will my studies enhance those contributions’,” Laura says. “That question really prompted me to think about what I wanted to do with my career, and the answer I gave on the first application has guided me on my pathway during my studies and in my work. I’ve stayed true to that direction.”

Pasifika presence helps with programme success

Today, in her role at Odyssey Trust, a drug and alcohol residency and community services provider, Laura develops and implements interventions and programmes for Pasifika clients. “Pacific people are over-represented in mental health and addiction-related problems,” she says. “Only about 10% of Pacific people struggling with mental health and addiction make it into treatment, and of those, only about one third are completing it.”

Laura says the more Pasifika people who work in mental health and addiction, the more success programmes will have. “We’ve got to add to the masses,” Laura says. “If there’s more of us working in mental health and addictions, we have more of a presence. We’re more visible. If families can see we’re there, they’re more likely to come through our door.

“Being able to practise as a Pacific clinician or practitioner leads to better outcomes for Pacific clients. It’s the single greatest predictor for a successful outcome.”

Contributing to mental health and addiction support

Le Va’s Futures that Work programme is helping to build the Pasifika addiction workforce and Laura says there’s a real need for it. “There is no better way to engage with Pacific people than being able to identify as Pasifika,” says Laura. “We’re natural engagers and in mental health and addiction, success lies in being able to engage with people.”

Laura encourages others with a discipline in the health sector, such as nursing or social work, to consider further study in the area of mental health and addiction. It’s such a rewarding and fulfilling area of work.”

And when it comes to applying for the Futures that Work programme, Laura’s advice is to keep it simple. “What are you doing within your own family? What are you doing to contribute to the wellbeing of your church group?”

“You’ll soon realise you do a lot. We just don’t tend to call it volunteering because it comes naturally to us and we get a lot out of it,” she says. “That’s why Pasifika are so good at working in the mental health and addiction space. So, jump on that scholarship train and go for it. Our people need you to take a seat at the table.”

Applications for the 2022 Le Va Futures that Work scholarship and mentoring programme are now open. Apply at https://www.leva.co.nz/training-education/scholarships/

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