Never living anywhere for long created challenges for Paea Muli he lotu Uluaki, particularly at the schools he attended at the time. The 16-year-old Tongan’s family moved around so much, he never settled, creating problems with the various schools he was enrolled at.

Having moved back down to Auckland from Northland, Paea’s mother enrolled him into a course at Oceania Career Academy. For the first time in his life, he’s enjoying the lessons. Born and bred in Australia, Paea was aged nine when his family decided to move to New Zealand. It was a major shift, but his family would continue to move house, more often than he would like.

“We didn’t have any money,” Paea recalls in a matter-of-fact manner. “My dad died when I was five and we had no source of income, so we just moved around staying with family. We didn’t stay for too long, we just kept on moving.”

The majority of his time in New Zealand was up north, near Kerikeri. Paea admits he’d been in a bit of trouble there, but this changed when he moved back to Auckland to live with his mum and siblings. He felt school wasn’t for him, but had worked on a few carpentry jobs, which he liked.

As an unqualified worker the hours were unstable and insufficient. Then one day, there was a knock on the door.

“Jim (OCA team member) just came and picked me up one day,” Paea recalls. “I was keen as.”

Paea’s mother had spoken to Jim about whether the programme would potentially suit Paea.  “We had agreed that it sounded like the programme could meet Paea’s needs,” says Jim. “Paea’s mum was busy with studies of her own, so I arranged with her to pick him up so that he could have a look at the premises and see what we do,” says Jim.

Being at OCA and working towards a qualification has confirmed for Paea that carpentry is what he wants to do with his life.

“I’d like to eventually get into an apprenticeship,” he says. “I’ve just gotta work hard.”

Paea’s goals are simple, achievable and admirable. “To start the process of getting qualified, get qualified, get a job … and help the family out.”

He knows it’s going to take hard work, but Paea knows it’s where he wants to be. He sees a future for himself being mapped out through OCA. It helps that the course and tutors are helpful and everything is straightforward.

“They make it less complicated for us to understand what they’re trying to say,” Paea says. “It’s nothing like school … it’s better.”

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