The Fono

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A future stitched together

From working through family violence to setting new life goals, Mary* has worked with The Fono to build a healthier and safer environment for her children and pursue her dreams of becoming a fashion designer.

Mary had been in a violent relationship for many years, witnessed by her three young children. Due to the frequency of incidents, Oranga Tamariki had also become involved with the family.

Following a family violence incident, Mary was first referred to The Fono through the Family Violence Interagency Response Service (FVIARS).

Benefiting from The Fono’s wrap-around approach, Mary was connected to the Whanau Ora service to access more support.

With the safety of Mary and her children at the forefront of her Whanau Ora Navigators’ mind, a safety plan was implemented. A protection order was put in place at Mary’s request, advocated for and supported by her Navigator.

The next goal to achieve was to gain clarity, as the family were unclear about the roles of everyone working with them.

The Fono’s Navigator arranged a family Hui with the mother, father, other family members, Oranga Tamariki, The Fono and school representatives.

As a result of the meeting the couple decided it was best for them to separate, and Mary started working fulltime to support her family and move forward.

Despite separation, another family violence incident occurred. Mary was forced to flee with her children to live with family – the incident put her out of work, and threw her and her children’s’ lives off track once again.

With The Fono’s help Mary accessed a benefit and addressed her rent arrears that had accumulated.

During this time Mary worked with Navigators to set goals for herself and her family, one of which was to start a fashion business.

She was selected to showcase her work at NZ Fashion Week, a huge honour she worked tirelessly to achieve, hand-sewing all her pieces of clothing.

At Fashion Week Mary’s line was a hit and she won a prestigious award. Orders for her clothing flooded in, and Mary was unable to meet the demand.

Unfortunately WINZ declined any financial help to support her business, but Whanau Ora was able to identity that pursuing a fashion business would be an avenue that would support Mary to become financially independent and reach her goals.

In this realisation, Whanau Ora was able to help by funding some key materials including a sewing machine, fabrics and patterns.

Other areas where Whanau Ora could assist were also identified, including helping Mary to get her driver’s licence, and transferring the family to another home to complete repairs caused by the family violence incident.

Mary was supported to change her benefit type to a Flexi-benefit as she starts to gain some income from her business.

On-going collaboration with other services such as Oranga Tamariki and Housing New Zealand ensures the family will remain stable and safe.

Over a short period of time she was able to save enough money to legally register and name her business, and copyright her designs.

“I’m able to start making the orders on my machine, rather than hand sewing,” says Mary, whose profits, made from these orders, will assist her in being able to fill her next ones.

The young Samoan mother’s future for her and her children looks bright.

For the help from The Fono in stitching together a future, and her own sheer hard work, Mary is grateful.

*Names mentioned in this article have been changed to maintain the anonymity of the family.

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