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Mark Tuifao – scholarship recipient shares his story

I hail from the villages of Sataoa/Savaia & Faleasiu/Falelatai in Samoa.  For me, I acknowledge my parents’ villages because it has assisted in shaping me into the person I am today.

Over two years ago I embarked on a journey to upskill myself, and change my career, by studying toward a Bachelor Degree in Social Work with Manukau Institute of Technology.

Going back to school was not an easy decision to make as I have a small family to provide for.  Having a strong support system at home was an integral part to my success.  Another part to my success this semester has been Le Va and the tremendous support they have given me.   Being a first-time recipient of the Le Va scholarship programme has been an awesome experience.

From the induction and leadership day programme, right through to the ongoing support shown by their team.  The support has given me the time to focus more on my studies without the burden of the financial challenges, and also exposed me to possible career pathways.  This has also helped me gain high marks across all of my papers this semester.   I would like to thank the Le Va team for not only supporting myself but supporting Pacific Islanders who wish to pursue their goals of working with our Pacific Island community in the future.

For me, education is important, and something that I encourage my three children to pursue now and into the future.  My journey here is one that I do not take lightly, especially having my parents migrate from Samoa during the 1970s.  My mother is a pillar of influence by not only raising me and my two siblings, but in later years going back to University and graduating with her degree in teaching.  If my parents can migrate to a foreign country, learn a different language, and upskill themselves in their chosen fields of work… what is my excuse not to complete my degree?  This is basically what shapes me and motivates me to not only achieve my Social Work degree, but also achieve my life goals in general.

Although motivation is one of the keys to success, choosing an area of expertise can be challenging.

I kept changing my field of expertise over the course of my studies, but what didn’t change is my growing passion for working with Samoan people.  This would lead me into my first placement with the TYLA (Turn Your Life Around) organisation based in Otara Town Centre where I was able to work alongside some of our youth.  The knowledge gained working alongside a well-balanced and experienced team has added another skill-set for me in the world of Social Work. I hope to grow this skill-set at my next placement at Middlemore Hospital , Counties Manukau District Health Board (CMDHB) working with our Pacific people across all spectrums.   In the future I will be working with our Pacific people within the field of mental health, with a key focus in the addictions area.  In my current field, I am already applying the skills that I have gained from MIT with a great deal of success.  Being able to work with not only Pacific Islanders, but a wide range of different ethnic and cultural groups, has further enhanced the practical side of my study.

I am a first generation New Zealand born Samoan which means I am at “ground zero” for my family on understanding two worlds (the New Zealand worldview and the Fa’a Samoa worldview). This is important to me and assists me in shaping my Social Work practice.  Ensuring that I am true to myself, and drawing upon my Samoan values of respect and being genuine, will assist me in working within the mental health sector.

Soifua Ia,
Mark Tuifao Anae

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