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Survivor of domestic violence and abuse, Adele Keefe now encourages and supports other wāhine to heal and grow while embracing her own new passion for learning.

Leaving school at 14 with poor reading and writing skills, Adele has conquered her literacy concerns, founded a charitable trust, and published a book. She is now completing her first qualification – the NZ Certificate in Health and Wellbeing (Level 3) Support Work, with Careerforce, a business division of Te Pūkenga.

Until recently, Adele’s training consisted of her life experiences. “Now, doing the Careerforce programme, this is the first time I have studied. The learning is about acknowledging what I know and do, building on that, and getting a formally recognised qualification for it.”

Much of Adele’s wisdom come from a brutal life journey. Twenty years in an abusive relationship and with a drug addiction, Adele fled from Hawke’s Bay to Nelson to start her new life.

Adele Keefe

“I knew in my heart that it wasn’t over. I decided to relearn, retrain, and recreate myself,” says Adele. “I wanted to create new habits and create a new lifestyle for my children, by healing my heart and my mind.”

Adele had become ‘hard’, unable to trust people, and not believing they would stay around to help her.  But, with great support and therapy, as well as her faith, and the freedom and space to come up with her own solutions, with their guidance, she recovered.

Strengthened by her own journey, Adele is now paying it forward by extending that same support to others in need and finding that people relate well to her.

“People say there is nothing worse than having someone that has never walked through it, tell you what to do, and trying to tell you all the answers,” says Adele.

Charitable Trust supporting women who experienced trauma

In 2020, Adele founded the Mana Wāhine Charitable Trust (now the Mana Whānau Charitable Trust), which initially helped women who had experienced abuse, trauma, and domestic violence.

“At first the Trust focused just on women, but when enquiries started coming in from men asking if there was anything for them, the Trust was broadened to include Tāne. We were starting to wrap around the whole whānau.

“I do a bit of advocacy, mentoring and run wananga where we create a safe space for people who are impacted, where they can unpack their trauma and we give them tools to use.”

Working in the role for three years has really helped with Adele’s literacy. “Over the three years, I have kind of taught myself to read and spell and I can read and write much quicker now.”

Programme is well supported by Careerforce 

Through the Careerforce programme, Adele says she has learnt so much. She credits the programme with helping her bring in new policies and procedures to her organisation, that they didn’t have in place before she studied.

Careerforce Workplace Advisor, Jemma Low, supports Adele with her learning. “I’ve got to really acknowledge Jemma, She’s amazing! If I get stuck, I can just ring her. She’ll tell me ‘You already know this, she’ll give me an example of what I do in my workplace’, and then I’m away.

“Study is like a type of workout. Like when you’ve been to the gym, I feel that when I study, it kind of takes it up to the next level in terms of exercising my brain.

“I feel that if we can heal the mind, we can heal the heart. So, in my spare time I decided to write down my experiences, what worked for me on my journey. I’d write a couple of pages at a time on my phone.”

Adele authored the workbook ‘Overcoming Trauma’

When she felt she had a book, friends and colleagues told her that her work just had to be shared. One friend edited her work, and another published it.

‘Overcoming Trauma’ is written as a workbook, in a simple format. “People who read it need to implement the tools and engage without me being there. It’s written in a way that’s not too overwhelming, that can trigger anxiety in people with trauma,” says Adele.

A number of groups are now using the book as part of their programmes such as The Graves Foundation who use the book for people who have been in prison before they are integrated into society. The book is also used by an Addiction Residential Rehabilitation Centre.

Adele is still pinching herself at what she has achieved, and although she still has work to do before completing the Level 3 Support Work Programme, she says she wants to do more work-based learning with Careerforce. “You can never know it all and I never want to stop learning.”

More information

Contact Careerforce for more information about work-based learning in the health and wellbeing sector. Careerforce is a business division of Te Pūkenga.