“Mental health problems and losing my mother while studying at Australia Pacific Training Coalition (APTC) did not deter me from achieving my dream.”
This was the message by Hagar Elenoa Holmes who studied individual support at APTC in Suva and graduated in May.
Elenoa, as she prefers to be called, hails from Taveuni with maternal links to Kadavu and Vitogo Village in Lautoka. She is a psychiatric survivor after being admitted at the St. Giles Hospital in Suva in 2010 with complications relating to bipolar disorder.
Elenoa learnt about the courses at APTC through a friend after sharing her story of taking care of her mother, who was a stroke patient.
“The information he provided me with stirred up the passion in my heart. I wanted to learn, study, develop my skills and gain knowledge on how to take better care of my mother. I also learnt that at APTC your skills set mattered regardless of what level of education you had completed,” she said.
In mid-2018, Elenoa received a call from APTC informing her that she had been offered the opportunity to study individual support, which involves caring for people in an aged care setting including in homes.
While this was good news, Elenoa was undecided at that time because she had to look after her bedridden mother. Fortunately, she was able to make arrangements with her aunt to care for her mother for the duration of the course, and thus began her new chapter.
The Lautoka resident soon made new friends at APTC and was even more delighted to be in the same class as her nurses at St. Giles Hospital.
“It was exciting to study with the same people who had once taken care of me. The nurses saw an improvement in my health after I was last admitted at St. Giles Hospital in 2010,” Elenoa said.
Talking about her upskilling journey, an emotional Elenoa remembered September 2018 as one of the most challenging months of her life when she lost her mother.
“At the time I was grieving and when I thought nobody cared because everyone is too busy with their own things, I was truly touched by the immense love and support shown by my classmates, the big hugs and words of encouragement from [APTC staff] Sheba, Sandy as well as my trainers Millie and Margaret,” she shared.
She said her favourite times during the classes were the role plays.
The 35-year-old reiterated the importance of TVET training, particularly for those with skills in their respective fields.
While Elenoa did not have good grades in high school, she was glad that APTC recognised skills gained through her work experience in assessing her application.
As she progressed in her studies at APTC, she learned the basics of individual support and realised what she needed to correct in order to provide the best possible care.
“For instance, someone in my mother’s condition will require a two-hourly turn; I did not know this until I came into class. I instantly called my mother’s caregiver and told her to ensure giving her the required turns,” she said.
Whatever she learnt in class, she would go home in the weekends and practice on her mother.
“That is one good thing about TVET training. When you already have a skill and come to study at APTC, you upgrade your skills and knowledge to do a job better,” Elenoa highlighted.
In the words of the mother of two who has overcome mental health challenges, studying at APTC was no less than a miracle.
“When I stood there with my certificate during the graduation, memories of my challenging times at St. Giles Hospital flashed back. I exclaimed, ‘Wow! From being in a little room in a mental health hospital to a room filled with guests for graduation.’ It was awesome to see what God can do for those who are determined. I am glad that APTC was part of my change,” she shared.
Elenoa’s message to those aspiring to undertake courses at APTC is simple yet compelling.
“APTC is not just about education and training, learning and developing your skills and getting a certificate.
“APTC is family-oriented; they care about you and your well-being holistically. From fellow classmates to trainers and student services staff, I was surrounded by caring people. I felt loved here and this is my second home,” Elenoa stressed.
She thanked God, her family, friends and the APTC team for being an important part of her life’s journey.
“When I graduated, I held my certificate with pride knowing that through the many ups and downs, I made it through!”