Family - Three generations

Lea - An ageing migrant struggling to find work


Lea is a Samoan woman in her late 50s who lives alone, has never married, and has no children. She has lived in New Zealand off and on for about 30 years.

She has been employed most of her life but she lost her cleaning job after a miscommunication with her employer, and is now out of work. She is having difficulties in finding employment and she believes her age is the barrier for her getting a job. She is on a benefit and lives in a Housing New Zealand flat.

She met a man who has ‘befriended’ her and moved into her flat. He refuses to pay rent, won’t contribute to paying the power bill, and he eats her food. Lea says he uses all his benefit for gambling, alcohol and cigarettes. He often comes home drunk late at night. Lea is torn because she is active in her church and culturally, she knows it’s the right thing to do to help people. She has asked him to leave and he refuses. Lea doesn’t know what to do and she is worried that if it weren’t for her, he would be living on the streets. But having him there means she is sliding into debt and she has approached Work and Income for help. She is afraid to tell them what is really happening – she assumes they won’t understand.

Being Samoan means that questioning authority is a challenge for Lea. She is vulnerable to being taken advantage of and as English is her second language, she does not feel confident enough to stick up for herself.

In her words

"I got someone to help me, my friend… he never helped me, he just move in my place to live… he was working but he never pay anything to me. I think he’s using people."

"I didn’t want that thing, they [a jewellery store] force me to, they put it in the box, 'this is for you, you can take it home now’ but I don’t want because I can't afford. I said to her no I can't afford and she put it in my bag, she forced me to take home…"

"I always put $20 out from my benefit to put in the church every Sunday… even if I got no money I still put $20."

"My rent is $160, my benefit is $210. I always go and find a job but I think the hard thing for me to find a job because my age."

Her strengths

  • Lea has a generous spirit and supports those around her
  • She is resilient in the face of difficult situations and circumstances
  • She is self-sufficient
  • She is motivated to find employment even when she experiences constant set-backs.

How can we support Lea to thrive

  • Find an empathetic supporter who can understand her circumstances, preferably one who can communicate with her in her native tongue, empower her to have better boundaries and help her navigate around the NZ system.
  • Introduce her to other forms of resources e.g. use of Pacific Island radio station to access information in a language that is easy for her to grasp.
  • Support her in learning a non-judgemental approach to saying 'no'.
  • Acknowledge her need for boundaries and her desire to help others.
  • Focus on ways of protecting her from harm.
  • Locate a supportive job broker.
  • Link her to other Pacific entities to provide her with additional support.
  • Provide Lea with a Building Financial Capability programme that is grounded in her cultural context, e.g. MoneyMates programme run by her church community, using familiar Samoan concepts.
Family - Three generations
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