Te kōrero o Donna Heller , Donna's story
Donna is from the Kaipara and is Te Uri o Hau, Te Aupouri.
Donna Heller, Te Uri o Hau, Te Aupouri, is a “can do” kind of person.
She was raised in Te Hana, attended school at Oruawharo and Rodney College and completed her schooling at Motueka High School. Donna started her working life as a bar worker in Auckland.
|Donna Heller, Te Uri o Hau, Te Aupouri.||
She’s accustomed to hard work – she left Auckland for Sydney to work as a nanny, and then moved to Perth WA where she stayed for five years, as a bar manager.
It took some time, but homesickness finally brought her back to Aotearoa in 2005 (she’d left in 1999) and to earn the same kind of income she was used to, she had to take up two jobs: a caregiver during the day, and weekends as a DJ. She found the schedule gruelling.
I woke up one day totally exhausted and thought, “I’ve had enough of this.” It was amazing because then the phone rang and it was my Uncle Shane, asking me to help him run his election campaign in Taitokerau. I knew it was going to be tough, but I didn’t think twice about it!
Donna is really proud of the campaign that she ran for Shane Jones (MP for Labour). Although the team were unsuccessful (she organised a losing party), the number of voters actually increased and she feels good about that.
The day after the elections, she moved to Wellington, where she has been studying at Victoria University since.
She is still working two jobs caregiving with two clients, one of whom is a tetraplegic who is studying to be a radio announcer. If she counts her student life as employed work (which she does), that makes three jobs!
I think if you study, you have to treat your study as though it is a full time job, with a pay cut, but a huge reward at the end!
In reflecting on her journey, Donna admits that she had become quite disillusioned with herself, not really believing that she could study full time, simply because it would financially impossible. But, she said she kept me people who were doing amazing things and thought to herself, “Why can’t I do that too?”
It’s been something new for her whānau too – she’s the first person in her immediate family to go to university, and is the eldest mokopuna too. She thinks she has a role in helping others in her whānau to take up study too – “I didn’t have anyone in my whānau to look to, to help me say, I can do it too”.
The secret she believes, of study, is to make sure that you do one thing at a time, finish it, and then move on to the next thing. She’s heard that up to 60% Māori students drop out of full time study, but she’s clear. “It’s not going to be me!”
And as well as her study, she’s become Auahi Kore too.
“It’s taken me about six times to quit smoking, and I’ve been smokefree now for seven weeks! I’ve found that if I avoid the whole drinking and smoking scene, it’s easier for me to quit”.
The future looks bright for Donna – with a short-term goal to finish her degree with good grades, and then on to her passion: aid work and development, ultimately working to help people in in Myanmar and in refugee camps in the Sudan.
“That would be my ideal job!”
Donna, we wish you all the best in your study, and your dreams and aspirations for the future.
Whāia te iti kahurangi
Ki te tūohu koe, me he maunga teitei
Pursue excellence – should you stumble, let it be to a lofty mountain
Māori Health Manager