Maria Financially Rebuilds Herself Over a Decade-Long Journey with Aviva

A middle-aged woman sits on a swing, recalling the hardships she's overcome. (image courtesy of Pixabay).

In 2010, Maria* was devastated by family violence. “I was broken, had zero self-worth, and no confidence in myself to be able to move forward. It wasn’t just the physical, it was the mental violence that made you feel worthless.” These feelings culminated in Maria attempting to take her own life. Thankfully, she survived; and the Police referred her to Aviva.

“I got a lovely phone call from a lady who spoke to me for what seemed for ages. I recall feeling guilty for taking up her time.”

However, through all the challenges she was facing, Maria ended up going to prison. “The lady at Aviva was so lovely, didn't judge, and said, ‘Give us a call when you get out and we will help you as much as we can.’ I held onto that for the whole of my prison sentence.”

When Maria left prison, she was starting over again with bad credit and no money. She needed a washing machine that her benefit would not cover.

Like many who experience violence, Maria’s ex-partner had controlled the finances. She had nothing to her name except the defaulted loans she had been made to sign for and her prison bonds.

This type of financial control is a tactic used to keep people in their relationships. If they leave, their debt and lack of assets excludes them from mainstream financial services, which can lead them to predatory third-party lenders who push them further into debt. Oftentimes, they find themselves back in violent relationships.

“I remembered what the lovely lady had said on the phone. I made contact with Aviva. I was so nervous as my self-confidence was zero. I remember going to the offices and tripping up the stairs with nerves. I nearly burst into tears before I got to reception.”

Maria was referred to Aviva GoodLoans[1], which offers budgeting services and low- and no-interest loans to those on limited incomes. The service is designed to help those like Maria who are trapped in a cycle of financial instability.

“I saw this lovely lady. She was comforting and made me feel like a person. She also never judged my situation, which started to give me hope that there are good people out there wanting to help.”

Maria was approved for a no-interest loan for a washing machine. “I remember screaming with excitement as someone believed in me.”

“Since paying off that loan, I have also got and paid off loans for a fridge and a television. I have learnt to budget and live within my means. I have learnt there are good people out there that don't judge and that my past does not define who I am now.”

Maria is currently a few payments shy of paying off her fourth loan – this time for her prison bonds. She hopes paying it off will allow her to finally move off her benefit and gain access to mainstream financial services.

“The person I was all those years ago was so broken and had zero self-worth. Aviva have supported me so much in my journey of becoming who I am today and gave me hope, for which I am truly grateful.”


*Not her real name.

[1] GoodLoans is offered through Good Shepherd NZ with support from BNZ, Kiwibank and the Ministry of Social Development.