“It’s very important to have breakfast, lunch and tea at the table together,” Maria says.

After losing both parents while she was still at high school in Hamilton, Maria has had to adjust to life without them, while starting her own family.

Living in a stable home where she’s been able to create her own traditions and memories with her 14-year-old son and 13-year-daughter has played a big part in her healing process.

“I don’t have my parents around, so it was very important to me to find my own place in the world. I needed to establish my own identity. To be able to provide us with a safe and secure home is more than I could ever ask for,” she says.

Maria, who is of Tainui, Ngāti Porou and Ngāti Raukawa descent, also continues to honour her whakapapa (family history). Photos of her whānau and ancestors line the walls of her home. Maria’s mother was one of the first teachers to start up a Kura Kaupapa (Māori language school), and now Maria is a Te Reo Māori tutor.

After volunteering at the local community gardens for four years, Maria now works part-time at Bunnings, where she organises community projects and kids’ DIY workshops. “I love working there because I get to be with plants. I love gardening and I’m in a space where I get to use my knowledge,” she says.

Maria’s home has recently been significantly renovated, as part of a Kāinga Ora programme to make older homes warmer and drier. After several months living in temporary accommodation provided by Kāinga Ora, Maria was overwhelmed at the way her home had been transformed when she and her family returned. “I cried when we came back home after the work was done. My first thought was, “Oh my gosh, my home!”

Maria is now saving hard so she can buy her own home – a place where she and her family can continue to make happy memories together. “I’m really focussing on achieving my goal of owning a home. I’m just trying to take it one step at a time so I don’t get overwhelmed,” she says. 

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Page updated: 3 April 2024