When EIT graduate Danielle Tuifao looks back on her life, she sees years of stress and heartache but also determination and lessons learned. Everything she went through shaped the woman she is today, Danielle says. A woman with a career she loves.
In 1996 both of Danielle’s parents passed away within just a week. It took Danielle a long time to get over this sad family event. Having small children also meant to fit her jobs around their needs and to set her own ambitions aside. In 2008 her Auntie Sulu was diagnosed with cancer and Danielle moved to Wellington to look after her before she passed away. Later she also cared for a friend’s mother. Taking responsibility for other people seems a common thread through Danielle’s life.
Two years ago Danielle decided to turn her passion for helping others into a profession. Danielle also felt she wanted to make a difference and set an example. She enrolled at EIT, started with a level 3 Health and Wellbeing certificate and recently completed a level 4 Health and Wellbeing (Advanced Support) qualification.
“Studying was a big challenge, the academic work was something completely new to me. But I always felt I was on the right track, also thanks to the support of the Pasifika team and my lecturers, especially Lesley Blair. She was amazing and I feel very blessed to have been in her class and gain so much confidence and opportunity,” Danielle says.
With a qualification in her pocket, Danielle secured employment at a retirement village in Napier. At the moment she works night shifts. From eleven pm until seven in the morning she is busy answering bells, repositioning people in their beds, comforting them and cleaning. “There is definitely no time for sleeping,” she says.
Danielle admits that witnessing the death of the elderly or dealing with people suffering from dementia can be mentally draining. However, she acknowledges that her qualification gave her the tools to positively approach these challenges. It also helps her to switch from work into private life mode when she gets back home, just in time for breakfast with her children, now 13, 12 and seven.
Despite her jam-packed schedule Danielle manages to make time for her favourite sport, rugby. A great social time-out and stress relief, she says. This year her team won the Hawke’s Bay women’s club rugby final in Napier.
“I would love to come back to EIT for more studying, nursing for example” Danielle says. “But I guess I have to wait until the kids are a little bit older. I’m not flexible enough at the moment especially with them playing so many different sports.”
But as so many mature students before her demonstrated, it’s never too late to hit the books.