After getting kicked out of school at age 15, this Tongan-born Aucklander has come a long way. Here’s how Samson Tuituu turned his life around and recently used his hands-on skills to make a difference in cyclone-ravaged Fiji.

Samson Tuituu could never have dreamed he’d be building homes for cyclone-affected families in Fiji this year.

After being kicked out of school at age 15, he drifted through life, getting in and out of trouble and going from one unfulfilling job to the next.

Apart from playing Auckland-rep rugby league, Samson didn’t feel he had much to be proud of.

But at the age of 30, after one particularly bad run-in with the law, Samson decided it was time to turn his life around.

He enrolled in a Certificate in Automotive and Mechanical Engineering (Level 3) at Manukau Institute of Technology, with his fees fully covered by Māori and Pasifika Trades Training: Auckland (MPTT: Auckland).

“I’d always enjoyed rebuilding engines and building cars from scratch. I was brought up doing that with my parents, friends and other family members,” he says.

“But I was a bum, working in factory jobs and stuff. Then I wanted to change my life completely and go back to what I got brought up doing – fixing cars and stuff.”

Switching gears

Samson started the course in February and has loved it. He’ll soon have a formal qualification to his name.

“I’m really proud of myself for achieving a goal. Even my parents are really proud,” he says.”

“I really like stripping engines apart and trying to find out what the faults are, and fix the problem.”

Samson will complete Level 4 next year and then set off on his new career path.

“I want to work as an apprentice and then move into full-time work for years, and then move into being a tutor to give back. I want to help the younger generation so they don’t go down the path I was on.”

Making a difference

So, how did this Papatoetoe resident end up doing charity work in Fiji this September?

Thanks to sponsorship from MITO, Samson’s been able to join a team of MPTT: Auckland trainees helping with the post-Cyclone Winston rebuild. Partnering with Habitat for Humanity, the 16-strong team is building two new homes for low-income families.

“There are a lot of reasons I wanted to come on this trip. Firstly, I’ve never been here before, and also I want to get the experience of this rebuilding in Fiji. I want to help build a house and get to meet new people and enjoy the trip as much as I can.”

He couldn’t believe it when told his trip would be fully funded by MITO.

“I just want to thank them so much for sponsoring me and giving me this opportunity to visit Fiji and help give back.”

He’s also grateful for his MPPT: Auckland scholarship.

“It’s very useful and it’s helped me a lot because I couldn’t afford $5500 for the course.”

Samson says he’s happy he went through a bad patch in his life because it’s shaped who he is now.

“It’s made me a better man and showed me the hard times. I had to walk away from a lot of my old friends, but I want to go back and help them one day.”