Manaaki: A New Life at 25

15th of May, 2018

Manaaki* came to Aviva for support in September 2017. The 25-year old describes himself as “a raging alcoholic, drinking until I blanked out. I just had lots of anger. The last strike was when I hit out at my partner - I never, ever thought I’d be capable of that. It was a side of me I didn’t like.”


Manaaki Googled support and after calling Aviva’s 0800 line he was connected with our Youth Services team (which generally supports young people aged 13 – 25). “I came in that day and Mike began helping me” says Manaaki. “He assured me that I was going to be alright. I had felt completely alone, and it was good to have some hope.”

Manaaki had a “savage” childhood. “My father was an alcoholic and he was abusive.” Manaaki’s earliest memory is his father threatening his mother with a machete. “We watched her get beaten a lot – a few times a week; then it was our turn. There was lots of physical and sexual abuse, and Mum suffered a lot of mental illness.”

Money was so tight that the family would go months without power, eating just the bare minimum. “We all ended up in CYF (now Oranga Tamariki) care. I stayed in CYF foster care for two years. Any money I got from doing chores, I’d give to my parents to help them. Eventually I ran away and was a street kid for many years, eating out of bins. It was better than going home.

“On the streets I picked up a lot of bad traits, like ‘blacking out’ and being immune to violence. There was nothing in my heart to have any mercy on anyone. I’d make money by being a pimp, looking after the girls on the street, as well as robbing. It was normal for me, but it was getting worse. I was assaulting family, friends – anyone.

“As for my partner, I’m not even sure how I got to be in a relationship. I guess I was just lucky. She opened my eyes by coming into my life, and she built this heart I can care about. I wanted to make her happy, to protect her. So when I hit her, I knew I couldn’t live like that anymore.”

Support from the Youth team has helped Manaaki change his life completely. “The thing I learnt most was thinking about my situation - what triggers me and how to avoid/ manage those. I used to have a million questions in my head about another person, and I’d answer those questions myself, then attack. I learnt a lot of techniques about stopping and thinking first.”

“My whole vibe has changed from the inside out…even my walk has changed. Life is peaceful; I’m the happiest I’ve ever been in my entire life.”

“The work with Mike taught me a lot about how what happening in the past affected me, and how I thought what I was used to seeing was normal. He showed me the difference between healthy/unhealthy behvaiours in the way I treat people. That was important in my relationship with my partner, because now I realise that I need to explain how I feel rather than just get angry. It has also helped my relationship with friends, colleagues - everyone has benefitted from it.”

Manaaki is now working in a job he’d previously had. “They knew me before and they see a big difference in me. If I was still the same person I wouldn’t have gotten my job back.” He even invited his Youth Worker Mike to visit his local marae to celebrate his course graduation.

As part of his one-on-one sessions, Manaaki was introduced to an Aviva Peer Support Specialist who told her 'story' and how this led her into working for Aviva and helping others. Manaaki found this inspiring and he then took the opportunity to undertake the peer support community-based child wellbeing training Aviva piloted late in 2017. “That opened hidden doors and hurts I hadn’t realised I still held” he says. “But it was good – it opened my eyes to what had happened to me as a child. My partner has children and in starting this journey I had to think about the life I was showing them. So I’ve been applying the tools from this course to my parenting – we’re a happier family at home now, and the kids see their mother happier.

“Life is great now. I don’t have to look over my shoulder, and because I stopped drinking after coming to Aviva, I wake up with no regrets. My whole vibe has changed, from the inside out. Since I started with Aviva I feel even my walk has changed. Life is peaceful; I’m the happiest I’ve ever been in my entire life.”


*not his real name