This month we visited the Afoa family. Michael, a widower with four children who made a new life for his daughters and himself here in New Zealand thirteen years ago. Supporting seventeen-year-old Teleai who has Cornelia de Lange Syndrome (CdLS) will certainly come with its challenges, but it’s nothing Michael and the family can’t handle.

Teleai Afoa

As a single parent with four children, life can be difficult. But doing the mahi both at home and at work is what Michael Afoa does every day. His motivation, seeing his children healthy and happy. Michael works full-time as a Quality Controller at packaging supplies company Cospak, where he has been for 12 years, and counting. Michael and his children moved to New Zealand from Australia in 2006. Not too long after, the family mourned the passing of the late, beloved, Mrs. Afoa.

Michael has been blessed with four daughters, Fatima, Margaret, Aoyana, and Teleai who turned 17 in January this year. Teleai was born in Australia in 2002. She was diagnosed with Cornelia de Lange Syndrome (CdLS) at birth. Cornelia de Lange Syndrome is a genetic disorder which ranges from mild to severe. Those affected by CdLS experience a range of physical, cognitive, and medical challenges. Teleai is an energetic young woman whose main enjoyment is music. Her favourite activities include going to school in Sir Keith Park School in Favona, Mangere. As well as, being taken for walks in the park, and most importantly, playing the ukulele. As I sat with Michael and Pacific Homecare Support Worker Pusi Sa, Teleai took to the ukulele to entertain us. Her love for music was abundantly clear when she did not shy away from me as I recorded her playing the ukulele yet refused to strike a post or a smile for that matter for a photo.

Life as a single parent comes with its own struggles. Michael barely has time to himself, but when he does, he enjoys going fishing with his family. Providing care for young Teleai, is a, round the clock task. Thankfully, Michaels daughters are wonderful children, and all play their part in looking after their sibling. The family has a schedule that works, and Teleai gets all the love she needs. An unofficial addition to the family is long time Support Worker Pusi Sa.

Pusi started working with Teleai and the family 12 years ago as a staff member of Pasifika Integrated Healthcare. Both the support worker and the Afoa family opted to join Pacific Homecare in 2014 when then provider Pasifika Integrated closed. Having worked with Teleai for so long, Pusi is attuned to the behaviour of Teleai and can quickly pick up if there is a course for concern or happiness. This was evident in how efficiently Pusi has arranged our interview for the very rare day that Michael was home during business hours. Furthermore, as I entered the house, I was warmly greeted and welcomed by Pusi. A quietly proud moment on behalf of Pacific Homecare I must add. Pusi is with Teleai from 7 am – 9 am and 3 pm – 5 pm when school is on and 9 am – 3 pm during school holidays. Her time with Teleai includes various tasks under both the Personal and Household categories.

It was a privilege to be accepted into the Afoa household by Michael and Teleai. We appreciate that this family was willing to tell their story. In sharing it with you, our extended whanau.

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