Motivating Families to Reach Their Full Potential

28th of November, 2019

“Great man.”

“Natural empathy.”

“Life which he shares and he’s not afraid of.”

Nicky at the Loft with quote

This is how clients describe their Aviva Family Support Worker Nicky Sofai, as he approaches almost 20 years of service in the sector. After years of work in alcohol and drug counselling, facilitating restorative justice, and working as a private consultant for family violence, Nicky has brought his talents to Aviva. He works with everyone, men, women, youth, and the children in our Tamariki Group. “What I love about Aviva is that we work with the whole  family, people using violence and experiencing violence. Including children,” Nicky says. His primary focus, and where he has proven highly instrumental, is his work with ReachOut for people using violence or at risk of using violence.

Nicky has his own experience witnessing violence as a child in Samoa, describing how his father would drink and become violent towards his mother. He remembers how it affected him growing up and starting a family while dealing with his own problems with alcohol. For many years, he never questioned his drinking, it was just what they did in his family. He recalls finishing work, going straight to the pub and drinking into the late hours of the night without pause. “Then one day deciding I’d had enough,” he says. “I wanted to take my children out of that kind of life. That motivated me to keep going.” Nicky had built a successful business in Samoa, but he understood that, “the only way to live and fulfill my family was come here and start all over again.” He brought his family to New Zealand to do just that. “Coming here. It was good. It gave me an opportunity to raise my own kids the way I believe.”

After stopping drinking, moving away from the violence that plagued his childhood, and making a better life for his family where his children could thrive, Nicky was inspired to support other families to overcome their own struggles. “I love to see families doing well. I love to see happy, successful, healthy, wealthy families without violence,” he says. If that means sharing his own story, he is not afraid to do so. “I had so many people asking, ‘Have you ever had any experience with alcohol or drugs.’ I replied, ‘Well, I did study, but at the same time, you want to know about my experience, where do you want to  start?’ If part of my life journey can be to help to motivate someone, I will openly share it.”

That openness and empathy is what makes Nicky so good at what he does. He never fails to see the strength or goodness in a person. Even when speaking of his own father’s violence, he describes him as “an awesome dad” and expresses a gratitude for their reconciliation. When talking about his ReachOut clients, Nicky says, “There’s still a good person. There’s still potential. They have so much strength in them. They just have rubbish on top of them.” These people are willingly choosing to enter the service, admitting that they are using violence, and working to make a better life for their families and their children. Similar to Nicky, many bring their own stories of witnessing or experiencing violence, addiction, or struggling with mental health. “It inspires me to see just whoever is sitting in front of me. They’re so full of potential,” Nicky says. “It’s the people that make me keep going.”

The work of people like Nicky relies on the generosity and support of the community. To support our staff in their work to help people overcome the long-term effects of violence, please make a donation at donate.avivafamilies.org.nz.

“There is a light at the other end of the tunnel and Aviva is one of those places that can give you hope.” -Nicky