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CareerForce27Nov 8065

Maree Hanson (Mar) is changing people’s lives at Te Awa o Te Ora Trust in Christchurch.  Te Awa o Te Ora Trust provides Kaupapa Maori wrap around services to people aged 18-65 years who have experience of mental illness. 

Its people like Mar who help make a big difference and change lives.  A Whānau support worker and Community Support worker, Mar is a modest woman with a gentle manner. “I basically go out in the community and support people with mental illness.  

“Before working here I was a community support worker caring for people with intellectual disabilities, I became pregnant with my son and that’s when my journey started.    I was later diagnosed with severe post-natal depression.  I was hospitalised for about a year been and an in-patient off and on.    Step by step I started feeling better and the good news is that I’ve been well and balanced for more than six years now.  

“This role and the people I support can be challenging. When I start connecting with people, usually it’s in their darkest times. 

“It’s about building up their support systems, so I refer them to different agencies that can assist them. Te Awa is almost always involved as well.   Once the steps are taken, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.   One chap wouldn’t even get out of the house to go to the shops. Now he’s going out, has a part time job. It’s really is rewarding seeing people like him flourish. There is a lot of sadness but there is a lot of happiness as well, a lot of joy.   We are just there to support them and walk beside them. It is really rewarding. 

“I studied for the Careerforce Certificate in Mental Health and Addictions Level 4.   It’s been awesome to be able to do it.  It was a bit daunting at first because I hadn’t studied for such a long time.  Being a full time Mum, working full time and also trying to juggle my studies has been a bit of a struggle. Time management is important. When you’ve got a case load, you have people that are really unwell, they have to come first.   It’s a matter of juggling and fitting it in there somewhere.   I’ve managed it so far.   I’ve had wonderful support.   My case manager, Heni at Te Awa is amazing.   If I’m unsure of anything, I will go straight to her.   

“I found that my first assessment, related so well with what I do at work.   And it’s great because you take a certain amount of information - it’s doable, it’s not overloading.   It’s really good. 

“One day I read about Careerforce. I told my manager that I wanted a qualification. I wanted something that proved to people I knew what I was talking about. But also it’s a tool for a better income, and different kinds of jobs.  Te Awa is very supportive and agreed it was a good thing. 

“I do want to learn more.  Now that I’ve had a taste of study I realise I can do so much! I could go so far. I can’t just be someone who had mental illness. It inspires you to be recognised. When you don’t have a lot of self-esteem, things can be quite hard. As time goes on, and you do your studies, you start to think yes, I can do that. I can do anything. At the time I thought I’m not good enough for this or that. But now actually I do think I am good enough. You can come from any walk of life and still have a mental illness.  No one is immune. Those who judge people with mental illness really need to step back and think that that could be me. 

“The Careerforce learning just blends it in.  It inspires you and makes you work towards a goal. The study has been quite fun, and of course educational.  I would definitely recommend Careerforce training because it fits perfectly with the holistic approach of Te Awa too."


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