Mekayla Peneha is the second recipient of the Braemar Charitable Trust, University of Waikato Bachelor of Health scholarship. Trust Manager Paula Baker said "Mekayla's passion for population health and desire to embed and reflect Te Ao Māori in her work really shone through in her application. We are privileged to welcome Mekayla to the Braemar whānau and look forward to assisting Mekayla achieve her aspirations through our scholarship and work placement". I asked Mekayla to share a little about herself and what brought her to the health sector.
Ki te taha o tōku whaea, he uri tēnei nō Ngāti Maniapoto, nō Waikato Tainui whānui, nō Te Muriwhenua noki. Ki te taha o tōku matua, he uri whakaheke tēnei nō Ngāpuhi, nō Te Rarawa, nō Ngātiwai, nō Ngāti Ruanui ki Taranki noki. Ahakoa rā he uri tēnei no ngā iwi huhua, he tamaiti tuturu tēnei nō Te Tai Tokerau, ko Mekayla Peneha tōku ingoa.
I am a wife, a māmā and whakapono and Te Ao Māori are paramount aspects of my life and go hand in hand in my world. I grew up in a small valley called Whirinaki in the Far North. I lived on the same road as my marae. Two hundred metres across the paddock was my Kōhanga Reo, and behind this was my kura. Within a two-kilometre radius was my puna mātauranga (pool of knowledge), and I am so grateful for my upbringing in Te Ao Māori. I enjoy spending time with my whānau and friends. I love playing a range of sports, although average at all; however, I still enjoy them. One of my favourite activities is getting to know my tūpuna (ancestors) by researching more about them. Learning about them and their stories enables me to learn more about myself.
I am excited about my studies in Hauora and look forward to my impact in this field. I have always known that I wanted a career in health, and the journey to get here has been quite an adventure. Fresh out of high school, I studied Sports and Exercise Science at WINTEC. After my first semester, I realised it was not for me and withdrew from my studies. Life happened, I married, had my son and returned to the workforce working for the government. Although time continued to flow, pursuing a career in Hauora was still the ultimate goal. I enrolled at AUT in 2021, studying to become a Chiropractor, which has always fascinated me. However, I felt that a piece of me was missing, I was missing the Te Ao Māori aspect. During the break, I started looking for health degrees with a critical focus on Te Ao Māori. In July of 2021, I was enrolled at Waikato University, and here we are today, studying towards a Bachelor of Health, majoring in Population Health Poutū-Manahau. With its robust Te Ao Māori focus and Hauora, this degree feels tailor-made, as it combines both of my passions.
I am highly driven by the health inequities that my people experience daily, and I want to play a part in reducing and closing these gaps. My ultimate goal for my people, in terms of Hauora, is to empower them in their decisions regarding their health. I will bring a fresh perspective to any mahi (work) I pursue and back myself 100%. The core values I strive to live by are; fairness, honesty, happiness and kindness. I’m a hard worker, a team player and a great communicator. I know these values will aid me in achieving and reaching my full potential not only within the health sector but in life.