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Keeping an eye out for the positive and each other

Right now, Monika Fakaosilea could not be more proud of her parents.

As essential workers at an Auckland factory, they are among the thousands of Kiwis working on the frontlines.

“Lockdown highlights the importance of essential workers and gives people like my parents a chance to be praised. I know some people think it’s a job they wouldn’t want their children doing but at the end of the day they’re the jobs right now keeping our country – and the rest of the world – going during this tough time.”

The deputy head girl of Sir Edmund Hillary Collegiate is hunkering down at home in Ōtara, South Auckland, where she has seen so much good come out of the lockdown.

“I know there are people doing contactless food deliveries to our elderly and dropping resources to families in need. It’s good to know people really care and even the lockdown does not stop them from doing what is right.”

She’s also seen online hate directed toward her community during the pandemic.

“With my generation being fixated on social media, it’s kind of hard not to see the nasty things online but you can’t let that influence how you think about yourself and your community.”

To get through lockdown, Monika is drawing on her philosophy to see the positive in whatever life throws her way.

“I’m just trying to keep up with my school work and keep calm and stay stress-free and positive.”

She is also keeping active with regular league sessions – all done over Zoom. She laughs that Coach makes them keep their cameras turned on to make sure nobody is slacking off.

“Even though I don’t want to do it, doing something active makes me feel good – especially if I have sat in bed all day doing my school work,” she says.

Although she stays in her room for much of the day, she makes sure she takes breaks and regular walks or runs for some fresh air.

“Just having that little bit of freedom to get outside makes it feel like you’re not in lockdown.”

She shares a bubble with her parents, Nana, her sister and her partner, two nephews, and her little brother.

“It’s a busy household but there’s not a lot on. The biggest challenge has been getting used to staying at home as I love going out and seeing friends. Waking up, looking at the same walls gets kind of boring.”

The new online learning environment has taken some getting used to, especially when it comes to covering new topics.

“It’s harder to ask the teacher a question because when you ask something, all eyes are on you as the little box lights up.”

But she makes sure she keeps in touch with friends and classmates regularly to ask for help and check-in.

“We stay connected and I also talk to people I normally wouldn’t because we made class group chats. It means we can connect with students who can’t check their emails, so they can be part of the learning too.”

Monika says SEHC provided her with a laptop so she could have her own heading into the lockdown and the same was done for her peers.

“I am fortunate to be at a school where the teachers and Senior Leadership Team really do care if we have access to those types of things so we do not get left behind.”

It's this support and that provided by principal, Kiri Turketo that makes the world of difference.

"She takes time out of her day to check in with me and the other head students, as she knows there might be added pressure on us during this lockdown. She makes it known that if we need anything, to simply let her know."

Monika says the first lockdown taught her a lot about how to approach another one.

“It encouraged me to turn off notifications to my social media. Doing that makes me not stay on social media as long and helps me manage my time better and distribute my energy into other areas like my school work.”

Her message to the rest of New Zealand is this:

“Make sure you check up on your friends. You don’t know how someone is actually experiencing lockdown. We’re all experiencing it differently so if you take a step to ask someone how they are it will actually make a difference.”

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