Breadcrumbs

Social work student carries hope strong

3 May 2018

Social work student Amanda Rose Steckling

An unlikely friendship with an eight-year-old girl in the Bay of Plenty foster care system cemented American-born Amanda Rose Steckling’s decision to study social work at the University of Waikato in Tauranga.

“She’s kind of the reason I’m doing what I’m doing. She’s part of my journey,” says Amanda.

The pair first met when Amanda worked at an after school programme in Tauranga the then six-year-old girl attended. The pair formed a close bond and when she learnt the girl’s story, Amanda was inspired to become a foster carer. She filled in the forms, applied and waited. Hearing nothing back she assumed her application had been turned down.

Virtually a year to the day later, a speaker from a local Child and Family Support Service gave a presentation at Amanda’s church. She spoke about kids in need of positive role models and gave an example of a young girl whose story sounded familiar. The stars aligned and now the two enjoy Friday movie nights complete with popcorn and treats. The rest of the weekend usually includes some backyard soccer or a hike up Mauao while Sunday mornings are spent at church. Two years of consistent contact and care has seen a huge change in the girl, who spends one weekend a month, sometimes more, with Amanda. The lessons learnt have gone both ways.

“Learning to love somebody where they’re at instead of wanting them to be something they’re not is a beautiful thing to be part of.”

Minnesota born and raised, Amanda was a former logistics specialist with the US military and served a year in Afghanistan. On return to the States, struggling with a loss of identity and lack of direction, she entered a downward spiral of depression.

It took Amanda nearly a year to get out of the negative place she was in. With her military contract coming to an end she was drawn to a church-led programme called Intimacy to Impact. Although there was one offered in Pennsylvania, her father encouraged her to apply for the Tauranga-based version run by Youth with a Mission (YWAM) Bethlehem.

Despite only hearing about New Zealand once, Amanda upped sticks and moved. Three years later, she realised her long term goals with the ministry would benefit from a grounding in social work. With military benefits allowing her to study in different parts of the world she was delighted to find out the University of Waikato offered the Bachelor of Social Work at its Tauranga campus.

“It worked out perfectly for me to come to this university as it was based in, what I consider to be, my home town.”

Now in her third year of study Amanda is already contemplating the different avenues that social work can take her. Keen to work in New Zealand initially, she plans to fulfil a deep-held longing to work in different nations too.

“There is so much scope with social work – working with refugees or in cultural restoration, prostitution, sex trafficking - there are so many areas where people need support. This degree really prepares you well for the reality of how tough it is out there.”

While juggling studies with work and time with her foster friend Amanda-Rose helps boyfriend Dave and friend Nicky develop a fair trade clothing company in India. Amanda-Rose’s role deals with “the heart side of things” like ensuring a safe environment and decent wages for the workers. People Clothing currently operates online selling fair trade tee shirts with plans to expand into other lines. Any spare moment she sees as another opportunity to walk the talk.

“The best advice I was given in one of my first lectures was to clean up your backyard before you try to clean up someone else’s. The job is selfless and it’s about loving the one in front of you and having the hope, strength and confidence to change what’s happening. You’ve really got to carry hope strong.”

Related stories

New awards bestowed on Waikato

Groundbreaking academics from the University of Waikato have been honored by the Royal Society Te…

From Whakatāne to Arizona via Waikato

Bachelor of Social Sciences graduate encourages anyone considering university study to attend an information session…

Poster students for Psychology research

From the effect of social media on Pacific cultural identity to the reason the moon…

Music to his ears

Bachelor of Music student Emmanuel Fonoti-Fuimaono will receive a Tertiary Achievement in Pacific Ako (TAPA)…

Running on science

A collaboration between the University of Waikato Adams Centre for High Performance and healthcare provider…

Happiness is breaking out

Happiness and wellbeing research is flourishing at University of Waikato.

Celebrating adult learners

The academic and personal achievements of six University of Waikato adult learners were acknowledged at…

Dr Tony Wagner

Tauranga educators to learn from global leader

Global leader in Education Dr Tony Wagner will speak at a series of events in…

Aramoana has designs on Tauranga Moana’s new university campus

Bachelor of Social Sciences student Aramoana Andrews recently took part in a design challenge aiming…

Tauranga student Ben Grindrod is presented with the inaugural University of Waikato Squash Scholarship by Dudley Bell.

New squash scholarship served up to Tauranga student

Tauranga student Ben Grindrod is the inaugural recipient of the University of Waikato Squash Scholarship.

Creative art works breathe life into new campus

As the University's new home in the Bay of Plenty takes shape, a team of…

Kaumatua Tamati Tata

Kete o te wānanga: Introducing University Kaumātua, Tamati Tata

It is a beautiful winter’s day when the University of Waikato's Kaumātua, Tamati Tata welcomes…