A letter from L’Rey Karaitiana

Students in financial crisis can drop out of university. Will you join with University of Auckland alumni in helping them overcome this hardship?

Kia Ora,

When a bird flies, it leaves a wake. And you can see how the birds that follow form a distinctive V, uplifted and guided by the flight of the leaders. I see myself in that formation, breaking through so that others can follow.

It comes with great responsibility but I love that I’m paving the way for my community.

There is a Whakatauki (Māori proverb) – “ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi, engari, he toa takitini”– “success is not the work of one, but the work of many”. Students are the success of the University but behind us stand thousands of caring people who, through their philanthropy, support and champion our achievements. That was the case for me.

The path to getting here has not been easy. My parents aren’t educated. They dropped out at 15 and this became a real motivation for them to see their children have this opportunity. They both work incredibly hard and sacrificed so much for me to be educated. But even the most motivated of us can be thwarted by circumstance.

I went to a predominantly Pākehā school. There was a stigma – that I wouldn’t go as far as the other kids, that as Māori I was not as clever. I really had to discover my own way and find something that I was passionate about to drive me to education. For me it was engineering.

I have always had a passion for humanitarian work. When I was 15 I watched a YouTube video where this guy supplied water to his home community. I researched what he did and found that he was an engineer. It fitted with my maths and science strengths. That was the moment that inspired me – a YouTube video!

My husband and I worked before I undertook my degree and we welcomed the arrival of our daughter, Erin-May. I knew that the decision to take my education to a university level would be difficult on our family but we focussed on the opportunities it would bring.

I could never have imagined the immense amount of financial pressure that came with my decision.

Will you make a donation today to help students overcome hardship?

We moved closer to Auckland but were still an hour and half away as the cost of living is so high. Medical care became a luxury that we couldn’t afford and we pretty much survived on rice. We could cover Erin-May’s needs but relied on tender mercies from our community for meals and childcare.

Although I built up a support system with the help of the Tuākana programme, the University’s learning community for Māori and Pacific students, I knew that I couldn’t continue my degree without financial assistance. I didn’t know where to go but I was lucky to have a friend who told me about the scholarships that are available to students who face financial hardship. It was in this moment that I discovered the power of philanthropic support. I applied for and was awarded an Engineering Student Support Scholarship.

Philanthropic support enabled us to live.

I am able to pay for medicine when we need it. I was able to get our car fixed to travel to University more. It covers the practical things like childcare when I have to attend a lab and the student essentials like printing and photocopying that you take for granted. It has made a world of difference – the difference for me between being able to study or having to leave University.

I can’t wait to get to the point in my career when I complete the circle. To give back is something I really look forward to doing. Knowing that someone has faith in me to do what I want to do in the future has been a big driver for me. People have seen my potential and believe in me and I want to harness this.

I look forward to being that support for others so that they see the longer term value of education. In my community, I can help lead this flight to a better future. I am at the front of the formation and my daughter and my wider whānau will see the path that education can take them on.

I hope you are able to join other caring people and support the 2019 Annual Appeal.  

Thank you for giving one of the most meaningful gifts this year – the gift of an education.

Nga Mihi

L’Rey Karaitiana

Engineering student and recipient of philanthropic support

P.S. Philanthropic support provided certainty when I had none. Before this, medical care wasn’t in our capacity. I’m still on my education journey and I’m progressing. That is my achievement. If you can, please make a donation today so that others have this opportunity too.