Head Health Coach and Registered Nurse, Sonya English, sits down with recent graduate, Leina Fofoa, to discuss her experience and journey to become a PREKURE Certified Health Coach.


Leina, thank you so much for talking to me today about the Health Coach Certificate. It’s great to see you.

Thank you for reaching out. It’s an honour to be here.

You’ve been one of our inaugural Health Coach Certificate students. So, I’m really keen to hear your take on how it’s been for you. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m a proud bi-product of immigrants. My parents definitely left their own comfort zone to give me and my siblings an opportunity. Hence why they moved to New Zealand. I’m the second out of six and the oldest out of the girls. So there’s a lot of responsibility on me. My parents are lay preachers, so most of my time will be at the church. So, it’s just finding a balance between being a lay preacher’s daughter and being a Pasifika person in New Zealand. I also work at ETU and am truly grateful to be working in an organisation that serves Christchurch alongside other agencies.

I saw when you said you are proud that you really sat up. You truly are proud. So, what brought you to Health Coaching?

We were quite lucky to be given the opportunity to be part of this training. My previous team leader just said, “hey, look, there’s a new training that’s available to up-skill what you guys have. Make the most of the opportunity.” So we pretty much all jumped on board and here we are.

We’ve had the pleasure of getting to know you over the last year. Can you take yourself back to when you first started on this journey, what were your thoughts on Health Coaching then?

I was just very curious because I didn’t know much about what it was. So, I was eager to jump in and just learn more about it and see how I could add on to what I was currently doing. I was nervous as well because I was like, “I need to make the most of this opportunity and learn as much as I can.” But, we were just so grateful for how the program was laid out for us.

What has surprised you the most over the last year, through your Health Coaching journey?

I would say, it’s not really a surprise but more of a blessing, the way you and your team have allowed us to incorporate our cultural elements. That was something that I was so thankful that you guys covered. You guys allowed us to share our own view on the practice. From other training that we have attended, it was very much, “this is how it’s supposed to be.” But, how you and your team did it was like, “this is what we’re offering you guys. At the end of the day, it’s up to you how you apply these skills, but don’t lose yourself as a practitioner in it.” For me that was a big takeaway from the whole thing. I could still be myself whilst taking on what I was learning.

What have you learned about yourself through Health Coaching?

Definitely confidence. Being proud that I can be who I am, but I also know that I’ve got people who I can go to now for questions and support.

It’s been such a pleasure to watch your journey from when you first started and hear you talking in our Talanoa circles about your experiences with your clients. What is something that you look back on and feel really proud of?

I’ve always been that reserved person and I tend to default to that. The training has definitely helped me with that. Knowing that I can be free and just talk about anything and not hold back. If I do make a mistake or say something that’s not exactly the right answer, there’s definitely safety. That was a big thing for me. And, you guys gifted that to us from the get go.

How, do you think, that confidence mindset has transferred to the people and the families that you work with?

Such a big change. Before this program I would go in and I had all the answers. My mindset was, “I’ve got to help them, I’ve got to fix them.” But, the journey that I took with you guys is that, if I can be confident and not worry about making mistakes within the group, then I can do the same with my families that I work with.

Tell me a little bit more about that?

It’s definitely made a big impact because families see me as a normal person who just wants to help out. She doesn’t necessarily have all the answers and if either of us make a mistake, we can grow together. That was a big thing for me.

I’m hearing a lot of personal growth and that being truly curious and okay not having all the answers is your new mindset. Have I got that, right?

You hit it on the head. And, it’s all thanks to you guys.

What are you most excited about in the next part of your Health Coaching journey?

Definitely the tools I’ve learned. The way you guys have taught us is like, “go see your families, speak with them, find out where they’re at, and then use the tools to support them but also remember that it’s their journey. And, then just weave yourself in as the practitioner.” This is what PREKURE is doing. This is what I know and understand. What’s the best way to give this to the families that I’m working with?

I love that. You said weave yourself in. When I repeat that back to you, what comes up?

Pride. Yeah, I definitely feel proud. Because I wouldn’t be in this space if it wasn’t for everything that’s been put in front of me. My personal experience.

What advice would you give people thinking about joining the Health Coach Certificate?

Go in with an open mind, an open heart and be hopeful that you will discover a new you. That’s definitely what I got from the training. You guys gifted us a space where we could weave in our own cultural elements and show up as individuals and you guys guided us.

You’ve talked about that cultural context and how that’s been really important in our discussions together. Have you got an example, for you personally, or that you’ve heard within the group?

One of the big ones was sharing. If we’re talking with families, it’s us as practitioners sharing with our families. What’s the best way to wear our cultural hat whilst still wearing our practitioner hat? That was a big thing for me because I struggled a lot with that.

I noticed that when we were in the Talanoa as a cohort and faculty all as one, there was so much open discussion. What value did that have for you?

That meant so much in so many ways. Because when I was looking at the team, I was like, “most of them are older than me, so I need to hold back.” I’m so grateful that I was put on the spot to talk about what I was going through as a practitioner, and then to have the elders recognise my personal experience. It was all love within the team, that was something that I held on to. It was just like being at home.

What else would you like to say about the Health Coach Certificate?

First and foremost, thank you. I am so grateful for this program. The way you guys teach. You’re not telling us what to do, it’s very much like, “apply this knowledge but don’t lose yourself as a practitioner.” That was another big thing that I definitely got from the training. “We’re giving you guys the tools and resources. Go out there, make the most of it, but just don’t lose who you are.” No other program has ever done that for me. It’s usually just, go in, do the work, get a certificate and go, but with PREKURE it was different.

If I may just summarise what I’ve heard you say and check in that I’ve got this right. You’re building yourself as a practitioner on top of your inner self, who you truly are, and now you’ve got confidence in that space. Which really underlines what a coach approach is, isn’t it?

Yeah, definitely. For me, it’s about finding confidence as a coach. I tend to default to my own cultural thinking. Like being young, is that okay? I’ve got to listen. You don’t have much of a voice, right? You feel like you don’t have much of a voice when you’re in that cultural setting. But, when you’re given the belief in your coaching, I was able to move forward with that. I took a risk to step out of that traditional way of thinking and be like, “actually, I am a good coach.” But in a way that’s not disrespecting the cultural side.

Wow. So, you’ve come out of your fear zone and you are truly flying. You know, for us as faculty, it’s been such an honour to watch that growth And, I know the other coaches agree with me, we truly have learned as much from you as you’ve learned from us about cultural context. About the beauty of lotu before a session. And, really just hearing what’s important to you. It’s helped us grow too, so it’s been a two way street. The future is really exciting. What else would you say to the PMA leadership on continuing this course?

Please continue. I hope that they will continue this program, especially for Pasifika practitioners. It’s definitely been a gift to us and so different to any other program I’ve experienced. I’m hoping that it will spread to our other Pasifika agencies because there’s definitely a lot of value.

I know for myself as a nurse and a very proud PREKURE Certified Health Coach, the outcomes of my community and my loved ones, that’s the most important thing to me. That’s what drives me. What’s the most important thing for you in all of this?

Me. Because I know that I can make a change. But, I can also not make any changes. I think we don’t put ourselves forward enough and say that we’re going to lead. We tend to pass it over to someone who will do it on our behalf. And, it all comes down to what you guys have taught us. For me to step out of my own comfort zone and actually be like, “okay, I can make a change even though it may not be in line with some of the cultural protocols. But, how else are we going to move forward?”

That’s hope. Isn’t it? It’s amazing. And the fact that you’re so emotional tells me how much you care about what you do. How important this is for you to make a true, true difference out there. Anything else before we finish?

Just thank you, honestly. Thank you for everything that you guys have done for us. And I’m hopeful that the PMA group will continue this program for all our other Pasifika practitioners.

Me too. Because it’s been such an honour and I think there’s so much more to learn, isn’t there? We are really excited as a team to see what you guys do and what the future brings. And, to continue to support you through your Health Coaching journey. Thank you so much for your time today, it’s been such a pleasure.

Thank you, Sonya.