Accolades cap challenging year
After a turbulent year - including the death of her long-term partner, caring for her intellectually challenged brother, bringing up three girls and reconstructive surgery on her hand - Horowhenua woman Sherly Maukau has come out on top.
The UCOL Bachelor of Nursing student has scooped a handful of scholarships this year, despite facing adversity at home.
And her lecturers and the people on the scholarship panel say they couldn't think of anyone more deserving.
Ms Maukau was awarded the UCOL Scholarship for effort and achievement, a UCOL educational high achiever scholarship, as well as the Soroptimist Scholarship, for women who provide the primary source of financial support for their families. She also won the Colleen McPherson Scholarship, for the second year running, which gives financial help to a student who has a dependant with a disability.
Ms Maukau cares for her intellectually- and physically-disabled brother, Rawiri, 38.
She is his primary caregiver, looks after his finances, and supports him in his own home, with independent living.
"I check in on him twice a day, first thing in the morning and last thing at night.
"I set him up for the day and send him off to his activities and away he goes," she said.
"I'm his baby sister, and he's a loveable pain in the bum."
Ms Maukau's partner of 11 years, John Reeves, died suddenly of a heart attack in February, leaving her to care for her three daughters, Kymberley, 16, Jordan, 12, and Jessica, 8.
"It was a huge shock to the system, how do you deal with that?
"It's been a juggling act and my poor kids have been passed from pillar to post while I've been finishing my degree.
"It's been difficult for them, they've had an interesting journey, but despite our rocky year we've all made it through."
As well as that, she also had reconstructive surgery on her right hand after a roller derby accident where she ripped the ligaments, delaying her course completion by six months.
She said the scholarships had been the highlight of a hard year and her daughters already had big plans for the combined $4000 she won.
"It's certainly been a shot in the arm right when we needed it the most . . . my children have earmarked one of them and have said: ‘Santa better be good to us this year, Mum'."
Nurse education lecturer Dianne Phillips said Ms Maukau deserved all the well wishes she got.
"Sherly has demonstrated maximum effort and personal responsibility in spite of tremendous grief and pressure."
Ms Maukau starts a job as a nurse in Levin's Elder Health Horowhenua Community Health Centre STAR 4 services in the next few weeks.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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