Social Worker , Needs Assessment and Service Co-ordination Service
A decade working in social services and health in New Zealand has given Cristina huge empathy for the people she helps.
Born in Romania, she moved to New Zealand after meeting a Kiwi. These days she’s married to another immigrant and the couple has a two-year-old child.
In July 2012 she began working at Tui Ora. It’s an organisation that fits with her experience and sense of compassion. “There is nothing more important than humans, what else can there be,” says Cristina, who works in the Needs Assessment and Service Co-ordination Service.
Her tangata whai ora or clients are adult mental health and addictions service users between the ages of 18-65. Māori are a focus but those from other cultures are also supported.
The service establishs the needs of each client before compiling a plan that suggests what services and organisations can help them.They’ll have an existing and enduring mental illness, as well as intensive needs.
Establishing what support they need is like a puzzle. Every part of their life is considered using the Te Whare Tapa Whā model developed by Māori mental health campaigner Sir Mason Durie. “It’s as if the person is a house with four walls, each as important as the other to hold them up,” explains Cristina.
Those four elements are taha tinana (physical), taha hinengaro (mind), taha wairua (spirit) and taha whānau (family). Under those headings many different factors are considered - everything from leisure and employment to mental health history and food nutrition. Cristina asks dozens of questions to get a sense of trigger points, of what makes each person tick.
“We need to build up a picture of what they might need. Our goal is to keep that person in his or her community.”
There’s a range of services available and Cristina feeds that information into the plan. Every six months the plan is reviewed although Cristina usually follows up more regularly. She’ll pop into a supported accommodation home to have a chat to nurses and support workers caring for clients, or attend meetings involving them. “We’re trying to make it as smooth as possible. Staying in touch with them and services around them means I’m more proactive.”
Having a dry sense of humour, tons of energy, a resourcefulness and pragmatic spirit sustains her. She knows what’s going on her community – she is, for example, an avid reader of community newspaper the Midweek and many of the local titbits she gleans from the paper form a resource for her to better help tangata whai ora.
“I like my job. I think it’s one of the jobs I can do well,” she says.