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Sports scholar, social butterfly, career success

October 25, 2018

Olivia Mador-Puna. A sports scholarship kick-started her study at EIT and her career with Sport Hawke’s Bay.

By her own admission, 25 year old Olivia Mador-Puna is a social butterfly. People are her passion. She knew this when, as a school leaver, she began to consider her study options but the then New Zealand waka ama representative also felt strongly about her sport.

A few months after graduating Sacred Heart College, it was Olivia’s Mum who suggested she should investigate what EIT had to offer. After “lots of conversations” with Eddie Carson, EIT Careers Counsellor, Olivia felt that the Bachelor of Recreation and Sport “aligned with me”.

It also helped that as Junior Maori Sportswoman of the Year, Olivia was offered one of the five annual Sport Hawke’s Bay and EIT sports scholarships.

Having been a boarder at Sacred Heart, (her home town is Gisborne) and responsible for getting herself to and from Rotorua most weekends for waka ama training, Olivia was used to being motivated and organised.

She says she settled into student life and flatting easily but acknowledges that at first her studies weren’t her top priority. However, “having one on one interactions and solid connections with lecturers” helped her refocus and by the end of her degree, Olivia feels she was “workforce focused”.

In her final year, Olivia was required to complete a 150 hour industry cooperative paper, working on a project within an organisation. She teamed up with Sport Hawke’s Bay, and with the thought she may go teaching, she worked with the Active Families’ team. With Sport New Zealand funding, the programme encourages families in Hawke’s Bay to make healthy lifestyle changes through improved activity and nutrition.

For Olivia it was a watershed year. Her passion for people, her love of being active, and her gregarious personality were all in sync.

When the Active Families’ coordinator left – ironically, to start teaching, Olivia moved directly from being a student into that role. One she held with Sport Hawke’s Bay for four years.

Then earlier this year, Olivia applied for and is now the Workfit Coordinator, a relaunched programme developed by Sport Hawke’s Bay. Still working with people but now with those working in business. It’s her job to help a business identify what its workforce needs by way of health and wellbeing, and then create a programme specifically for them and to suit their budget.

For Hastings District Council’s IT department, Olivia devised a ten-week programme encompassing a weekly ‘taster’ session for up to 20 people. On offer was yoga, tai chi, box-fit, nutritional education and waka ama for team bonding.

For Napier firm, ABB Limited, it was a Wellness Week where some of those same activities were offered in addition to a 3Fs workshop, a session on label reading plus nutritional cooking demonstrations. Eight bikes were supplied for 30-minute rides on the nearby cycle trail. And on the Saturday, a waka ama family event was held to bring business and family together.

For another Hawke’s Bay client, Olivia organised a health check and then coordinated the same for nine other offices around the country.

EIT is also benefitting from Olivia’s skills – “it’s nice to give back”, she says. She’s been running Warrant of Fitness health checks and lunchtime yoga classes. To come are sunrise Tai Chi sessions and a whanau fun day for staff, family and friends.

She’s also organised an inaugural business house volleyball league with a dual role of better utilising the courts at Pettigrew.Green Arena, which is where Sport Hawke’s Bay is based.

Olivia is delighted with her career to date and says the key is “putting yourself out there” and building relationships. “The EIT degree is a hands-on one. It’s about getting into the community to show people ways to be active. The degree opens you up to all sorts of options, and it changes your mindset about opportunities.”

Working for Sport Hawke’s Bay has allowed her to be challenged and to challenge herself, Olivia says. “Workfit is the first profit model delivery programme Sport Hawke’s Bay has offered. It’s a step up for me because its success relies on my ability to convince businesses to invest in a programme and then to deliver it successfully. It’s my reputation that’s on the line.”

As to the future, Olivia believes she will stay working in the health sector. “I’m driven by wanting to see the overall wellness of the Hawke’s Bay community lift. But it has to be in partnership. We have to lift up wellness together.”

Scholarship application information and forms can be found on the EIT and Sport Hawke’s Bay websites. Applications close on 24 November 2018.