Kitemoana Hema is just one of the amazing rangatahi who is achieving great things with the support of Youth Service at Tui Ora
The inspiring 18-year-old has achieved NCEA level 1 and 2, and is now working towards her level 3, through Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu (previously known as the Correspondence School), all while working full-time to support her whānau. Her next educational step is to complete a Victoria University correspondence course so she can become a social worker.
“Having someone believe in and support me has really helped me to set goals and have a clear direction in my life,” says Kitemoana. “I know that Melissa (Andreoli, one of the Youth Team kaimahi) is always there for me, helping me to work out what I want to do and providing the practical help I need to make those things possible”.
“It makes all the difference because while your friends and whānau might support you, they have their own lives to sort out and can’t give you that dedicated focus Melissa can. I’m so grateful to her.”
Kitemoana has also been recognised for her business and leadership skills with a Nga Amorangi student award from Innovate Taranaki for her Te Hāpai Toi business idea that uses art to help young people develop a sense of cultural identity.
Identity is very important to her, as she didn’t receive her Māori name until she was eight years old and only had it recognised legally this year, with Melissa’s help.
“I was given a Pakeha name at birth, but my mother Te Raumahora renamed me Kitemoana and that is the name I have always used,” she explains. “But it was never changed legally, so every time I did anything official, like sit my driving test or an exam, it was my birth name that had to be used, which would upset me.“
"When Melissa found out, she said she could help me with the paperwork, and the fee, to get it changed. It was amazing when I got the legal document confirming it all. And now we are working on getting me a passport!“
"I would tell any young person in Taranaki who is struggling a bit to reach out to Tui Ora – the people are great, they understand the challenges rangatahi can face, and really support you through them.”“Kitemoana is a wonderful example of what rangatahi can achieve with the support we can give them, as well as financial help if they need it,” says Melissa. “She came to us originally for some counselling, as life hasn’t been easy for her, and just went from strength to strength. I am so proud of her, she is amazing.”