When Anton Lee-Kutia moved from Gisborne to Auckland last year, his only clear goal in life was to be a good dad to his two young daughters.
But he had no qualifications, no money and not much confidence.
“I came up to Auckland ‘cos I had a bad break-up with my ex and needed space. I was being a bum really. For years I’d just been doing whatever there was for work or I was on the dole.”
Staying with his relatives, Anton started doing small DIY projects around home.
“I was helping my uncle round the house, building fences and gates, and he said ‘You’ve got a bit of a knack for this’. I’d never done that kind of thing before; I was just trying to pull my weight.”
Before he knew it, Anton’s family had helped him successfully apply for a Level 4 Certificate in Carpentry at Unitec, and a full-fee scholarship from MPTT Auckland.
He started the certificate in February and is on track to hold his first formal qualification by Christmas this year.
“I’m enjoying it. I just really like building frames and using my hands. I don’t like the theory much though,” he says.
“After I qualify, I’ll try to find a good company to work for and start my apprenticeship.”
Anton reckons going from “bum” to trained builder within 12 months has been “a hard-out change”.
“At the end of the day I was nearly 30 with nothing under my belt. Compared to where I was last year, I’m doing heaps better.”
A highlight this year was travelling to Fiji in October as part of an MPTT: Auckland team that partnered with Habitat for Humanity in building two new homes for low-income families.
Anton’s two-week voluntary trip was generously sponsored by Hawkins Group.
“Thanks to Hawkins for making this trip happen. It gave me the opportunity to go and use the skills I’ve learned so far, doing some good in the world.”
Anton says working in the poor community of Loqi, near Nadi, was a real eye-opener.
“It made me see how easy we’ve got it. The timber they used was a basic debarked log and the builder’s mix was just rocks and stones from down at the creek. It was real old-school.”
Despite having a great year, Anton knows how easily he could slip back into his old ways unless he stays focused.
“I guess I’ve learned that if you want to get there you’ve got to put in the work. Things won’t just fall in your lap."
Driving him is a motivation to provide for his children.
“I want to be able to look after them, and I want them to see me not doing the old stuff I used to do,” he says.
“I’m nearly there. It’s just a matter of waiting and having the patience to let things tick over. At the moment I have to look for a job and keep doing the studies.”
Living with his relatives has also given Anton the chance to make a difference in his 16-year-old nephew’s life.
“I tell him not to worry about partying so much and I say, ‘Don’t end up like me, living with my aunty. Go get the qualifications now and the good things will come with it’,” he says.
Anton may be living with his aunty and uncle but at least he’s finally found a dream – to have a great career and build his own home one day.