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.