Fonua wins YWCA future leader award


‘‘It was com­pletely out of my com­fort zone.’’

Auck­lan­der Mary-Kate Fonua was com­pletely out of her com­fort zone when she joined a YWCA lead­er­ship pro­gramme.

The for­mer Mt Roskill Gram­mar School deputy head girl then went on to be crowned the 2016 YWCA Auck­land Future Leader of the Year.

Fonua was part of the YWCA lead­er­ship pro­gramme for girls aged 14 to 18 years from low decile schools.

It of­fers free men­tor­ing to help nur­ture young women to be­come ca­pa­ble and con­fi­dent lead­ers.

Fonua, 18, said the last four years with the pro­gramme was chal­leng­ing.

She had moved to New Zealand from Tonga in 2008 with her fam­ily and was still get­ting used to western cul­ture when she was se­lected to join the pro­gramme.

‘‘It was com­pletely out of my com­fort zone,’’ Fonua said.

‘‘I was scared that peo­ple would not get me, that they wouldn’t un­der­stand the is­land girl, my jokes and the way I did things.’’

Fonua said she went from be­ing a shy, in­se­cure young woman who iden­ti­fied her­self by her weight, to a con­fi­dent and stronger in­di­vid­ual.

‘‘There were a lot of times that I just wanted to give up.

‘‘I re­ally didn’t think that peo­ple un­der­stood me and there was a lot for me to take in.

‘‘Mov­ing from Tonga I had to be­come more open minded in New Zealand.

‘‘I had to fit in, and that was hard for me be­cause I didn’t think any­one would get me - get all of me.’’

Her big­gest break through in the pro­gramme came dur­ing a camp last year, when she at­tempted high rope.

Fonua, ter­ri­fied of heights, started the high ropes from level one and made it to level six.

‘‘My weight has played a huge part in things that I think I can and can­not do.

‘‘When I com­pleted level six I was so happy.

‘‘That was the first time pushed my­self be­yond what thought I could han­dle.

‘‘I couldn’t use the ex­cuse of my size any­more and that was my first real taste of suc­cess, of work­ing hard and over­com­ing my own stereo­type.’’

Fonua is now plan­ning a ca­reer in medicine and is con­fi­dent that life lessons learnt from the YWCA pro­gramme has set her up for the future. I I

Mary-Kate, third from left, with her grand­mother Mele Kau­fusi, and parents Havea and Kueni Fonua.

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