All in a day’s work: Yvette Hulena-Leslie

All in a day’s work is an occasional column featuring residents and their professions. This week the Chronicle had a chat to Yvette Hulena-Leslie – who you may recognise from the Raglan Roast in Te Uku – currently also working part-time as a social worker in Hamilton assisting young people.

How did you decide to train as a social worker?

Although I’ve always wanted to work with people, I initially had no intentions of ever being a social worker. Instead, I left school part way through year thirteen with aspirations of entering into the police force, then in my early twenties I moved to Auckland to pursue psychology and criminology. Two years into my degree I decided I needed something more hands-on and after some further research, I felt social work was where I needed to be.

What did that involve for you? How long did the process take?

I chose to do my degree through Wintec, graduating with a Bachelor of Applied Social Science– (Social Work). The degree offered at Wintec is four years and very hands-on, which suited my learning style the best.

Can you describe the role of a social worker?

The scope of social work is remarkably wide which makes answering this question quite difficult. Personally, social work provides me with opportunities to promote social change and development, social cohesion, and the empowerment and liberation of people to enhance well-being. I believe strongly in social justice, human rights, collective responsibility, and respect for diversities. These principles are also central to social work.

Did you work in other jobs while you studied?

For me, working has been essential to making this study journey possible. Although I have worked in a number of jobs, I have been working at Raglan Roast for the past four and a bit years now. This place has become a second home and everyone there has been a massive source of support. Coffee has this way of bringing people together and I absolutely love that.

What position do you currently have and what does this involve?

I’ve recently accepted a part-time position in Hamilton working amongst a multidisciplinary team of drug and alcohol professionals. Part of my role is to assist young people to draw from their own experiences and strengths so they are able to make informed and educated choices when faced with making decisions surrounding drugs and alcohol.

What is your goal in terms of your career?

At the moment, my goal is to continue this knowledge gathering journey, while supporting others in their own journeys to wellness through family, emotional, physical, and spiritual wellbeing. I have always been passionate about community development and how this impacts our young people and families within them.

You grew up in Raglan and you continue to live here. Do you see yourself here long term?

Raglan has always felt like home to me, and this was made very clear to me while studying in Auckland and Hamilton. The ocean is my happy place and where I feel most at peace, being able to come back to our family home and land makes this even more special.

What would you say to someone who is interested in pursuing Social Work?

Do your research as there are many different institutes that offer Social Work programmes; we all learn differently so select something that works for you. Also get involved in school leadership roles, your local communities and holiday programmes. Volunteer work is always a good place to start.