A difficult upbringing, including time living on her own as a 15-year-old, means Janine Thomas knows what it’s like to be under pressure.
Now, armed with social work skills and practical experience she’s acquired while studying at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, Janine (Ngāti Pākehā) is helping make a difference for under pressure whānau in Rotorua.
Janine, 33, who lives in Rotorua with her Ngāti Kahungunu partner, is a Piripoho family navigator with the Mokoia Community Association in the city’s east, connecting with whānau needing assistance and helping them access support services. The work involves co-operation with a range of community groups, incuding four marae.
Her COVID-19 response initiatives with her Tatau Pounamu Collective and Piripoho colleagues have been nominated in the Westpac Rotorua Business Awards under the community support and care category.
The response initiatives have involved delivering hundreds of information and hygiene packs, as well as activity packs for solo parents and kaumātua looking after tamariki. They’ve also delivered information on family harm interventions and worked with police, civil defence, doctors and others.
Janine has been working full-time in her Piripoho role while also completing the final year of a Bachelor in Bicultural Social Work degree with Te Wānanga o Aotearoa in Tauranga, after earlier completing a one-year certificate course.
Previously an army chef and potentially heading off on overseas peacekeeping, Janine was struck by the fact that people at “home” were also suffering. That awareness, plus her own difficult upbringing where she lived in a range of circumstances, helped fuel a desire to assist those in need.
After leaving the army she spent time at a variety of jobs before starting social work study: “I wanted to be that different social worker rather than the ones I had.”
Her experiences helping people meant “I fell in love with community work”.
With many of her clients being Māori, Janine says study at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa through the Bachelor of Bicultural Social Work degree programme course has prepared her well for working with whānau.
“The Wānanga has taught me skills that help me connect with te ao Māori in my work.”
Anyone interested in study at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa can call 0800 355 553 or check out our website for more information.