The Fono

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Expect the unexpected

When Rileta and her husband Vaiula Siliko left Samoa with five kids in tow, to create a better life for themselves in New Zealand, their expectations were high. They left good jobs so their children could receive a better education, and so the couple could try and lift their living standards. However, it was a lot harder than the Silikos had envisaged. But thanks to The Fono and its Family Support Service, they are achieving their goals step by step.

Two years ago, the Siliko family took a huge leap of faith and emigrated from Apia to Auckland, leaving family, friends and good jobs - Rileta was a policewoman while Vaiula worked in multi-media delivery at the University of Samoa.

The couple had travelled to New Zealand on holiday before and knew what it had to offer.

However, visiting a place is always a very different experience to migrating to it.

Auckland rents were through the roof, and the Siliko family were unable to apply for Housing NZ accommodation until they had lived in NZ for two years.

Initially they stayed with Vaiula’s brother before they moved into a house in Otara.

Three months later, Vaiula found employment at the Henderson-based Tegal factory, and the family moved west to Massey.

“That’s when I met Tu’u (Tu’u Toleafoa, Senior Practitioner, Family Support). I was enrolling at The Fono clinic and she told me about the Family Support Service, so I joined up,” Rileta says.

The Family Support Service is a free, confidential, home-based support service for The Fono Clinic patients, which supports people with social needs that impact negatively on family health.

It provides access to and advocacy with health services, education and resources so people can make healthier choices.

An appointed community health worker develops a relevant care plan with the family, while the service also provides support for immediate needs such as WINZ benefits, housing, employment and budgeting.

“We were struggling to get furniture for our house, and it was hard to cover everything we had to pay for with five kids and one on the way on just my husband’s wage,” Rileta says.

Rileta was surprised at the support she received from the service, which ensured a community worker visited each week to help find ways to source furniture for the family and other needs, as well as bringing extra food for the busy household.

“I felt really supported – I don’t have any family here, but I feel like the support workers are my family now – it was also a good opportunity to chat to someone each week and vent a little,” she adds.

“We didn’t expect any of this … the support workers even brought presents around on Christmas day, which made our children’s day.”
When Rileta and Vaiula had their sixth child, Waitaula – Wai for Waitakere – Tu’u transferred the Silikos into the Waitakere Family Start Programme, established one year ago.

Baby Waitaula is now 15 months and thriving. Every month, family worker Janeth Dela Rama spends one hour with Rileta and baby, focused on Waitaula’s progress in the Babies Development Programme.

Janeth is also concerned about the family’s development and pops in weekly to see how the Silikos are faring. She was a huge help when the family hit a snag a few months ago.

“We needed a new home – our house was on the market and we had to move. I was desperate and really stressed when we hadn’t found a home and only had a week to go before we had to be out,” Rileta explains.

But Janeth and Social Services Team Leader Loga Crichton worked tirelessly to source a brand new home in Somerlands, Henderson, using one of The Fono advocacies, Monte Cecilia Housing Trust.

“The reality is, I couldn’t do it without them, I was so stressed not knowing what to do … It was really hard when we first arrived here, but life is so different now after receiving help from The Fono,” Rileta says.

“Life has really improved, our kids – now aged 13, 12, 11, 5, 4 and 15 months - are doing really well and they enjoy New Zealand.

“The eldest ones like school and say they don’t want to go back to Samoa, they like it here so much.”

Rileta really encourages newcomers to Auckland who need assistance establishing themselves in their new city, to visit The Fono and says there is no need for anyone to feel alone and unsupported.

The Silikos are forever grateful to the team at The Fono, who have helped them settle into life in NZ.

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