How this single mum went from starting her car with a fork to her dream job

Monique Abrams has come a long way. The mum of three has gone from starting her car with a fork to driving forklifts and frontend loaders.

Feeling lost with no-one else to turn to, Whānau Ora provided support and encouragement to Monique when she was going through a tough time in her life.

“Everything Whānau Ora does is very personalised. I was lost, a single mum with no family in Auckland, and they helped me through a dark time. They helped me financially when I didn’t have two cents to my name,” Monique says.

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Monique Abrams has turned her life around Photo credit: Whānau Ora

Whānau Ora also offered Monique a mentor when she needed it most. “Whanau Ora gets to know the whole family and offered me parenting courses. They helped me get into emergency housing, and supported me in meetings. I also received counselling because I was going through a rough time in my life. Someone would always be checking up on me, making sure I was fine."

“I wanted to re-train but didn’t have a lot of family, good influences, or people who wanted to do anything different around me," she says.

“The main thing Whānau Ora helped me with was getting a car so I could travel to a course in South Auckland from my home in West Auckland. My car wasn’t roadworthy and I had to start it with a fork. They helped me to get my car up and running so I could physically get there. But more than this, Whānau Ora helped me achieve my goals and turn my life around.”

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Monique Abrams at home with her son Photo credit: Whānau Ora

It was while Monique was waiting for an appointment at Whānau Ora that she spotted an advert for a Civil Operations course.

“I thought working with heavy machinery sounded really cool so I applied and got in. I carried on to do two other courses and eventually got my certificate in transport and class four licence for truck driving.” 

The day Monique graduated was also the day she found out she had landed her first job in her chosen industry, which she started just over a year ago.

She now works in a quarry depot where she drives front-end loaders, diggers and trucks. “When I started my job I thought 'this is it, I’ve found what I want to do'. It’s not like I’m going to work, it's more like I’m going to have a good day and getting paid for it.”

There aren’t many females in the industry, but ironically Monique’s boss who hired her is a female.

“I’m a tomboy anyway so it doesn’t bother me. I just have a good laugh.”

The operations manager at the quarry depot said they employ on attitude. “We were impressed with Monique's commitment to getting her license and doing courses to upskill herself. She’s a quick learner, bubbly, enthusiastic and it’s a pleasure to have her.”

Monique knows first-hand how hard it can be to reach out and hopes to inspire other families in difficult situations to do the same.

“Sometimes, you just don’t know where to start. I was a very proud person, and I thought asking for help was a sign of weakness. But Whānau Ora made me realise I was entitled to this support,” she said.

Whānau Ora today released a fresh brand direction and its first campaign, aptly titled ‘We Dream’ which is receiving wide support from well-known New Zealand personalities - Former All Black Israel Dagg, his wife Daisy, All Black Patrick Tuipulotu, Black Fern Ruby Tui, Silver Fern Phoenix Karaka, TV Presenter Stacey Morrison, The Cougar Boys and Hurricane star Vince Aso.

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All Black Patrick Tuipulotu Photo credit: Whānau Ora

Delivered in the format of a compelling short film, We Dream highlights real-life challenges faced by New Zealand whānau in housing, poverty, education, employment and gaining opportunities for sustainable change.

The storyline is narrated by Whānau Ora’s own Navigators, the frontline people who work directly with whānau to navigate and wrap the necessary services around them. Navigators assist whānau to identify goals, prepare and plan to improve their lives, ultimately giving whānau hope and the ‘space to dream’.

The Whānau Ora (family well-being) policy, was adopted in 2010 because standard delivery of social and health services was not working and outcomes, particularly for Māori and Pasifika whānau, were not improving.

The policy looks to increase the well-being of individuals in the context of their whānau, and so differs from traditional social and health models that focus solely on the needs of the individual in more institutional environments.  

Although Whānau Ora support is available to all New Zealand families, currently those with multiple and complex needs are prioritised.

Visit for information about the campaign. 

This article was created for Whānau Ora. 

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