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Courage and determination

bring residency and happiness for Felis

In English, Felis means happy, and Felis Annie Pael who works at Princess Alexandra village has worked hard to live up to her name by creating her own special happiness.

It hasn't been an easy road for the young nurse from the Philippines but she has developed a positive attitude and continued with a steadfast independence even when things have been difficult.

All through her journey, her sensible inner-voice has guided her on a steady path to achieve her dreams.

She beams widely as she explains she inherited her name from her grandmother, back in her small hometown of Baybay in the Philippines.

Felis and her brother and sister grew up with extended family, near an isolated and mountainous part of the country. It's an overnight boat ride to the nearest city and a long way from the capital, Manila. Her family have a coconut plantation but it was important to her parents that the siblings had a good education.

Felis trained for four years as a nurse in the Philippines, working in the community and in hospitals. She also cared for her grandma as she suffered the ravages of Alzheimer's.

As a community nurse she would walk miles to isolated villages to provide health care and education to the village residents. "I climbed mountains, I mean I really climbed mountains!" she laughs.

"Once there was a typhoon on my way home. It was a two hour walk and I had to cross the river holding on to a rope and walk on two bamboo branches tied together!"

Many of the villagers feared vaccinations and other services. "But we spoke the same language. We talked to them and explained the advantages of vaccinations. It was really important. It can be life threatening if a child has measles. There would be no medications and no doctors. Imagine it is two hours walking out!"

She also provided pre-natal services. She would advise pregnant women and encourage them to leave the village early, in time to be able to walk out of the mountains to the hospital in the town.

"I miss it, but I had to move on. I couldn't focus on work and look after my child, Janus."

Felis moved from the mainly Catholic part of the country to a hospital in the Muslim area where she was promoted to a superviser nurse. Sadly, while she was there, her partner, who was a soldier died in an accident. "This was the biggest hit of my life. I opted to leave the Philippines."

To forge a new life Felis had to leave Janus in the care of his grandparents who dote on their only grandchild. "He is the apple of their eye. Sometimes you have to make sacrifices for those you love.

I had a lot of reasons to go, so I did not think twice when my aunt in Australia offered to sponsor me to migrate to either Australia or New Zealand.

I consider myself an adventurist! I chose New Zealand as I had no relatives here and I came here not knowing anyone."

Felis arrived on a student visa and studied diversional therapy for a year at the Kauri Academy in Auckland.

During this time she applied for, and was accepted for a part-time caregiving role at Bruce McLaren village. "It's very nice there. They are lovely people and I really miss them."

At the end of her studies, Felis knew that to apply for residency in New Zealand under the Skilled Migrant Category, she would need to change to another position. She dearly wanted to work in special care as an activities coordinator, but there was no available role at Bruce McLaren.

"I knew nothing about Napier. I Googled it! I was happy in Auckland and this was a bit far from the city. But I told myself, for 20 years of my life I didn't live in a big city. I have to take this job to get my residency. When I arrived in New Zealand I didn't know anyone – this is still New Zealand and Auckland is not that far away.

I came to Napier to get residency so my son can live with me here. It's every migrants dream.

I have achieved a lot. Most migrants have difficulty in gaining residency. So it is really a difficult step. But I am working in this big company and it really helped. It only took two months! It is not so easy for others. Most of my friends have been turned down. I had to grab the opportunity. It's big deal for me. I'm a single mum with a five year old son."

Felis's plans don't stop there. She is always looking ahead. The next step is to bring Janus to Napier to live with her. "I quite love it here especially for raising a kid. It's not too busy.

He knows he will come here and he is looking forward to it. It will be different. I don't know how it will work for him and me, but I have to try.

I just need to learn how to drive first! I walk every day 30 minutes each way. There is no bus to my house. I have to walk.

I have lots of goals but I take it one step at a time."

Felis knows the importance of getting her residency, "I would have had to leave after three years. Then after a year you can come back and look for a job. Whose employer would be willing to wait for a year? It's also expensive.

After all my training to get where I am now, it would really have made me sad. Like I climbed the mountain and then at the top they tell you off you go, back down again."

I don't think it would be good for Ryman if you have a worker who really works well and loves their job and the residents love her or him. I don't think it would be good for the company."

Felis's other goal is to get her New Zealand nursing registration. "I would like to be here and work as a nurse. Ryman is a really good company. All my colleagues and managers are are very good. They are very supportive. I treat them like older sisters and my mother!"

Felis considers Ryman as part of her family. "It's not just a job it's a passion. If you love your job it's like your family." Tears flow as she explains, "I thank my Ryman family. I thank Bruce McLaren and Princess Alexandra. You are family to me here. I have no relatives here. Everyone was caring and loved me and asked me to parties. I have a really big family now!

I really love Ryman. This company has been really good to me.

My priority now is me and my boy; I have to make time for my son. I want to work as a mother!"

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