The best start in life

30 September 2016

Well Child Nurse Hannah Tareta

South Seas Well Child Nurse Hannah Tareta Koronui isn’t hesitant to speak about the journey and hardships she has endured to get where she is today.

The mother of two from the Cook Islands appreciates where she is and the responsibility she has looking after babies, young children and their mothers.

“It’s a privilege and a blessing to be able to go into homes to monitor and help mothers and their new-born babies,” says Hannah.

“I see the care and depth of the checks we complete, from when the baby is four weeks old until they are four,” she says.

“We weigh the baby, look and feel the skin for any abnormalities like dry skin or sores, check the fontanelle (part of the baby’s skull). We also observe the surroundings to make sure it’s a safe environment. It makes me wish I had that when my own two daughters were growing up.”

Hannah was born and raised in the small, isolated northern islands of the Cooks. Her mother was from Mauke, her father from Atiu, population approximately 500.

She was raised by her grandmother and father’s brother and cousins that were considerably older than her.

Being the youngest in the household made her “a spoilt brat”, Hannah confesses. While teachers said she was a bright student, she was often late for school or didn’t turn up at all.

In 1997 an aunty provided an opportunity to put her into nursing school in Rarotonga. She didn’t take advantage of it. Two years later she met up with the man who would be the father to her two daughters.

The relationship was short-lived and Hannah admits she “felt stuck” and needed a fresh new environment.

With family in New Zealand, including a sister, Auckland was the best option.

“I arrived here with two kids and a small suitcase in the middle of winter,” she recalls.

“It was so cold.”

Hannah moved in with her sister who lived in Mangere. Family and friends would come and go and when her sister moved out, she was left with the responsibility to pay the rent.

It also became clear that if she was going to get a good job, she’d need a qualification. In 2007 she began a Bachelor of Nursing degree studying right next to South Seas at MIT (Manukau Institute of Technology) in Otara.

“I loved it, but it was a real struggle with two young girls and no income. There were times where I didn’t have any money for petrol to get to class.”
Without telling anyone, Hannah dropped out altogether. With her daughters at school and no job or courses to attend, she decided to do volunteer work at the local Citizens Advice Bureau. She describes the experience as “invaluable”.

“I didn’t realise there was so much help out there. I wished I knew about it when I first arrived in New Zealand.”

When one of the MIT course mentors heard she had left, she approached Hannah, imploring her not to give up.

“She really believed in me. She said I would make a great nurse and she’d help me to apply for scholarships.”

Hannah applied for and was granted a couple of scholarships that enabled her to study. She regularly met with her mentor at the local McDonalds where she would be shouted lunch. Hannah’s eyes begin to well as she recalls the get-togethers.

“My mentor would shout me a burger. I’d eat half and say that I was full,” says Hannah.

“I wasn’t really. I would have loved the whole burger, but I wanted to save the other half for my girls.”
In 2013 Hannah returned to class for MIT’s Bachelor of Nursing Pacific Programme. She loved it.

“There were very good lecturers and a real connection among the students. It was then I realised nursing is what I really wanted to do.”

Hannah graduated in 2015. In April 2016 she secured a position as a Well Child Nurse at South Seas Healthcare. After a decade of struggle living in New Zealand, it was a dream come true.

“There were so many times in my life I’d be crying, asking myself ‘how am I going to feed the kids?’ Or ‘who can I borrow another $5 from for petrol to get me to class?’

“Now I’m here at South Seas, which I love. There’s a good mix of Pacific people here and while we work hard, we enjoy our jobs and get on well together.

“I love the job because when I go into homes, I want to help the mothers as much as I can. I’m not there to judge. From my own experience with my daughters, I just know the challenges young and often single mothers face,” she says.

“And I know what we’re doing helps give the mother and baby the best start in life. I’ve been blessed to be employed by South Seas Healthcare. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to enter my career.”

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