From working in an African orphanage to organising New Zealand adoptions, Stephanie Hills has done it all.
The trained counsellor started at East Auckland Family Works in Mt Wellington as a team leader in July.
Hills enjoys overseeing the mix of everything from parenting classes and social work to budgeting and working in schools. Getting people through tough times is a humbling experience, she says.
‘‘There’s quite a few that stick in your mind and you just wonder how they’re going now. It’s a real privilege to be part of that journey.
‘‘I’m a quiet person but I guess I just understand people and can relate to different problems that people might have.’’
Hills, 58, graduated from training as a counsellor in the 90s after working for Child Youth and Family for 13 years where she organised adoptions for families. Being part of the process was very special, she says.
She then spent time working at The Monastery women’s retreat, Hamilton Rape and Sexual Abuse Healing Centre and Hohepa Homes, an education organisation for people with mental disabilities.
In 2012, Hills volunteered at an orphanage in Ghana.
The institution was very poor, unhygienic and struggled to make ends meet but the children were
despite unbelievably happy hardship, she says.
It is a lesson more Kiwis could take on board, she says.
‘‘People in Ghana don’t seem to carry their troubles around with them, they’re light and free. Here you just see people walking around with the world on their shoulders.
‘‘We do have different troubles in many ways but it does give you something to compare.
‘‘I think we just worry more about the future, saving for a house, everything, but they’re just forced to live day-to-day. That can be a blessing in disguise.’’
A passionate writer, Hills’ first completed novel Argenta was published by Scholastic in 2008.
She has other manuscripts in the works and loves the escapism of creating another world.
Hills is also a cryptic crossword fanatic and started writing clues to keep herself at the top of her game.
‘‘Writing is just an escape. It’s similar to reading in that way but with writing you’re going over and over it in circles and you get far more involved. The words have to carry not just the message but the whole atmosphere. You create the mood.’’