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Sowing success from scattered seeds

Guest blog from Olivia Salanoa, Pacific Mental Health and Addiction Scholarship recipient

Talofa Lava. 

My name is Olivia Salanoa and I am a proud recipient of a Pacific Mental Health and Addiction Scholarship, which has supported me to the completion of my Bachelor of Social Work degree (Bicultural Practice).

I am Samoan, my father from Lufilufi and my mother from Lalomanu, Apia. My three siblings and I were born and raised in Auckland where my parents settled in One Tree Hill, close to all the sheep! I’m a blessed mother of two adult children, a son and daughter who have taught Mum about having a balanced perspective on the male v female front! 

I’ve been working in mental health for the past seven years, providing support and information to family members whose lives have been impacted by mental illness. Statistics show that one in five New Zealanders are affected by mental illness, add to that statistic the aiga around that person and we gain a general idea of the numbers of people affected by mental illness, both directly and indirectly. 

I became interested in the area of mental health quite some time before I actually entered the field, having looked into it as a career path.

For someone with very little experience (minimum requirement is a Level 4 certificate in Mental Health and Addictions), I considered myself fortunate for the opportunity to support family members who (usually) play a huge role in the recovery journey of their loved one. 

For our Pasifika aiga, this is just an expected norm, but it’s not always easy for our families let alone tangata ola. The area of mental health is complex for all involved and from the knowledge I’ve gained through my work and my studies, I aim to make my contribution to our mental health community. I am so grateful to Le Va and the Ministry of Health for the scholarship which has enabled me to complete studies and gain a qualification. 

As a ‘mature’ student, this means a lot especially as I’d shunned education in my early years. As a recipient, there’s a certain amount of personal responsibility involved. Knowing there is a need to grow the Pacific mental health workforce propels me to make full use of the opportunities available. If this is my area of interest and the need and opportunity is there, take advantage of it. 

I’m grateful to Te Wananga o Aotearoa and all kaiako I have learned from, for letting me jump on their waka and allowing me into Te Ao Māori. Also for giving me space to share my identity as a Samoan. They provided much acceptance and respect for the diversity of cultures.

This scholarship has ensured that the gain is not just for myself but also for those who have sown into me and those who will reap from the seeds scattered. Life is a continuous path of learning, not just from educational institutions but also from life experiences and our connections with one another.

Fa’afetai tele lava.

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