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Faith helps turn Jo’s life around

Joanne (Jo) Ikitau loved her Dad. Of Samoan and Niuean descent, she was only 10 years old when he passed away. As one of three kids, she knew she had to stay strong for her siblings and her Mum.

But when she started high school, Jo’s life began to unravel.

“At netball I’d notice my teammates would have their Dads on the side line supporting them,” she recalls.

“I’d think of my Dad and feel real sad deep down inside. I’d try my best to put on a brave face in front of the team.”

Jo wore the same brave face at school. She was the tall, funny girl, always good for a laugh.

Home, however, was a different story. Her mother and siblings would bear the brunt of Jo’s frustrations, which often resulted in her crying herself to sleep.

At age 17, Jo was asked to leave school as she wasn’t attending. She started going to night clubs and bars and enjoyed the alcohol that went with it. The enjoyment of drinking and partying didn’t last. Jo felt her life was spiralling out of control. Getting drunk at church was the final straw.

She knew she had to do something. Jo had an auntie and uncle with children who lived in Christchurch. They didn’t drink and the family were prominent members of a local church. It was just what she needed.

Jo appreciated the discipline the family brought back into her life. But she admits she still didn’t communicate with her uncle and aunty much at first.

“I respected them, but didn’t really speak to them that much. It was the same with all adults. I found talking to their kids a lot easier.”

But she started to open up with her uncle and aunty, who she says gave her some good advice.

“My aunty and uncle have really helped me with my life. It was hard at first, but I became really close with them over time and now see them as my second parents.”

Her time in Christchurch allowed her to re-establish her faith.

“It took time, but I felt my life really started changing when I started a relationship with God.”

Thinking back, Jo shudders at the pain and torture she put her mother through. She’s thankful to be closer with her siblings than she has ever been. And even more thankful she was able to share her feelings with those who were able to help.

“In Pacific families, there’s often a lot of stuff that you don’t talk about between parents and their children,” she says.

“But I learnt that you can’t keep everything inside yourself. There is help and people you can trust.”


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