The Fono

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Elena’s extended family

With almost 17 years as a medical receptionist at The Fono Henderson, familiar face Elena Asekona-Tito says it’s time for her to fly the coop. The bubbly 36-year-old will miss her colleagues, who she considers her second family. Elena never intended to stay so long, but the Kiwi-born Niuean says she’ll look back on her time at The Fono with nothing but fondness as she embarks on the next journey of her life.

Elena has seen The Fono go through many changes since starting at the organisation in the year 2000.

“It was just a GP clinic and a lot smaller - we had one Tongan doctor, one Samoan doctor and one Kiwi (Palagi) doctor who would alternate days,” she recalls.

“In comparison to what it is now, we have expanded so much.”

Fresh out of a Travel and Tourism course, she had never intended to stay long at The Fono.

“Once I started to work here, I fell in love with the people and with the staff.”

Her parents were employed by The Fono at various times, so Elena doesn’t hesitate to call it a family affair.

“I came to The Fono through my parents. My dad used to work as a community worker. He left and went to another organisation and my mum went on to work for The Fono as a community worker as well.

“When my mum left to go back to school, I started working here in reception, so it has been a family affair.”

Elena has seen The Fono go through a number of changes that have seen the organisation grow and foster a culture of caring.

“Comparing when I first started to how it is now, we are meeting and maintaining targets that have been set out for us, whereas before it was not the priority,” she says.

Elena is confident The Fono will continue to expand as “the people that benefit the most from its growth are the patients”.

“With more staff that can speak certain Pacific languages, those who aren’t able to understand English can be understood and looked after,” she says.

“We are very culturally diverse, and it’s not just a clinic for Pacific but we do have that Pacific flavour.”

In April 2016 Elena was given the opportunity to become the Practice Lead for the Henderson branch, looking after rosters and the day-to-day running of the clinic to ensure everything runs smoothly.

“It’s been a good learning experience in a leadership role, working alongside management and also advocating on behalf of staff and patients.”

The opportunity allowed her to push herself to see what she’s capable of.

Her love for the organisation grows even more, despite missing the face to face interaction with patients.

“I love The Fono because it’s given me the opportunity to grow,” she says.

“When I first started, I had just finished school and had no knowledge of any computer programmes, Pacific health, or the skills in interpersonal relationships.”

The Fono drew out Elena’s talent, harnessing her impeccable customer service skills.

Elena says she leaves the organisation with skills and knowledge she would not have gained elsewhere. For her, The Fono is family.

“The staff make it an awesome place to work,” she says.

“They’re the reason why I’ve stayed so long.”

Elena finished at The Fono last week. She plans to live a simpler life in Samoa with her husband for a while, but believes she’ll eventually return to New Zealand.