Olive Stanley – whose family is from Vaigaga & Vaovai villages - is living up to the Samoan saying, ‘O le ala i le pule, o le tautua’ - ‘The pathway to leadership is through service’.
Having just completed her first year of a Bachelor of Social Practice at Unitec, Olive has already begun taking the first steps toward developing a budgeting service, targeting Pacific families, with Pacific culture at its heart.
A former accountant, Olive is combining her financial skills with her newly acquired knowledge of social practice after seeing a need for a targeted service - currently there are no Pacific budgeting services in West Auckland where she lives - despite the unique financial challenges Pacific people face. These challenges include many Pasifika families sending money back to the Islands, giving to the church, door-to-door truck shops and fa’alavelaves*, which can leave families short. Olive explains, “They don’t like to say no to people because they think it’s disrespectful, but it’s just going to get them in more financial strife and they’ll never get out of it.”
“Their main goal was to come to NZ, provide their kids with a better education and a better future, but because of the financial strife they’re getting into that’s just not happening.”
Olive is currently working with a family to help them learn more about money management, and is also tapping into her networks who have donated essential items to the family such as food and clothing for the children the family cares for. Her passion is being realised and Olive is effecting real change in her local community.
She has also found a mentor in Unitec lecturer Emeline Afeaki-Mafile’o, who has offered her a trial space at Community Café - which Afeaki-Mafile’o founded - to assist people in the Pacific community who need budgeting advice. This opportunity provides Olive with practical experience and a chance to develop relationships and assist people in wider Pacific communities.
Olive has taken a pay cut from her generous former salary to do what she loves. “I’m going into a field which is one of the most poorly paid professional fields out there, but it’s my passion and I’m motivated to make a change. That will be more rewarding than what I get financially.”
As a single mother to two pre-school aged children Olive’s personal determination and hard work, along with a supportive family and assistance from several support services at Unitec, have made the difference to her learning experience. She ended the year on a high with six A+ grades and two As.
Olive is also interested in social policy and is concerned with the changing nature of communities, from collective to individualistic, which has led to reduced community support for struggling families.
“Growing up in Henderson – it was mainly a Samoan neighbourhood – you could rely on your neighbours for things, you knew your neighbours. These days you just don’t have that community feeling anymore.”
She knows first-hand how a supportive family background can make all the difference. Olive’s parents worked hard to ensure their children had everything they needed and instilled values in them which contributed to their daughters’ success.
This family support didn’t end after childhood, their interest in their daughters’ wellbeing and happiness is still apparent today, “My dad normally stays up and snores his head off in the lounge while I’m doing my homework, or he’ll make coffee and so does my mum. I’m really lucky to have such an amazing family. That’s why I want to work with families – if you have a really strong family, you can do what you want to do.”
Her desire to work with families stems from this knowledge that strong family roots will provide a lasting and strong base which will result in healthy families in the future. “This needs to happen from the start, because strong families can do anything.”
*Olive describes fa’alavelave as a way of showing honour and love by gifting money to families during ceremonies such as funerals, weddings, birthdays etc. It is an important part of Samoan culture which is a collaborative and collective approach.