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'You need to better yourself to help other people'

bachelor of Social Work student Gayle Moana-Johnson.

Twenty-five year-old single mum Gayle Moana-Johnson, of Tūwharetoa, says life was tough growing up, but now she’s working to make life better for others while studying and working as a social worker.

She had her first child at sixteen while at Awatapu College in Palmerston North, and ended up transferring to the Whakatipuria Teen Parent Unit. “They were very supportive of my learning, and ensured I completed NCEA and was able to gain university entrance to study at Massey.”

She says the Bachelor of Social Work was a simple choice. “When I was growing up, life wasn't the greatest for me. I had a really rough upbringing at times, and I just wanted to give back to our community, so they know that someone is always there to support them.

“While doing the social work degree, there's a lot of self-reflection and that is 100 per cent what I needed. That’s the one biggest thing I have taken away from my studies - you need to better yourself to help other people. I’ve definitely built a lot more confidence within myself. It's helped me understand who I am and where I come from, and I think that's really important.” 

Juggling study with family and work

She is also the first person in her whānau to go to university. “I've been really lucky to have awesome class mates and lecturers that have been able to help me and tautoko [support] me on my journey through Massey.”

Ms Moana-Johnson juggles work and study with bringing up her two children - nine-year-old Exavior and seven-year-old Shakaiah. “I'm fortunate to have supportive networks around my kids and I. Things would be much harder without help from my family and friends.” 

She also works as a mental health and addictions practitioner at Best Care (Whakapai Hauora) Charitable Trust in Palmerston North.

“My role is to work alongside whanau who are wanting to make some positive changes in their lives such as harm reduction and education around alcohol and other drug use. We provide a wrap-around service and can help our whānau in many ways which is important for their well-being.”

Watch a video of Gayle talking about her life and studies.

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