Why I am motivated to get the best outcomes for our clients

October 28, 2022

Seeking refuge in another country, experiencing economic harm and having to rebuild her life with $50,000 of debt – Our Training and Capability Coach, Sandra, shares her story and why she’s driven to support clients with their financial wellbeing. 

Sandra, originally from Zimbabwe, had to flee to Aotearoa New Zealand when she was a teenager because of political unrest. She said she remembers going into hiding and her family needing security glass, bars on the windows and dogs for protection.

“Those are moments you never forget. It was hard to comprehend everything that was happening – Despite the fact I was basically a child, I was experiencing hate for something that was out of my control.”

But there were places of sanctuary, like school. When Sandra was at school in Zimbabwe, she remembers it as a place of equality, where it didn’t matter that people looked different and came from different backgrounds.

“I was very lucky and privileged to have gone to the school I did. Politics were left at the school gates and our teachers cared and nurtured for us. They had such an impact and were the reason I became a teacher in New Zealand.”

Sandra and her family ended up at a Christian camp in Pukerau – outside Gore in the South Island.

“Starting from nothing, in a foreign country, was scary. Your life goes from familiarity to the floor falling from beneath. Trying to navigate it all was hard.”

Sandra then went to university so she could become a teacher, where she eventually met her now ex-partner. 

Experiencing economic harm

Sandra’s relationship started out healthy like most relationships, but over time it switched and harmful behaviours started occurring – including economic harm.

Like many people who experience economic harm, all the debt and interest were in Sandra’s name because he already had a bad credit history.

Sandra had to get the car loan and internet in her name and had no access to the finances. It meant she had no idea of the amount of debt that he was building up.

Sandra told us he would regularly threaten to leave as a form of control, take her I.D to sign up for things without her permission – like new gaming system, phone plans, internet and so on; and she had to always ask for permission to do anything.  

“He never saw his behaviour as wrong and I’m pretty sure he didn’t realise the long-term harm he was causing for our family.”

Sandra, who was a stay-at-home parent at the time, only had access to $150 a week from Family Tax Credits during most of her relationship.

“The money he earnt from his job was never shared openly.” Sandra told us. “The Family Tax Credit was not enough for four people to survive off. It was all I had to get food, nappies and petrol for my car. Often there wasn’t enough and my parents had to help me out. My emotional wellbeing was so low. I was worn down and depressed. How could I survive without any money?”

Sandra wanted to fight for her relationship, despite all the unhealthy behaviour, because of her values and the two children she had with him.

However after five years, Sandra’s partner walked out of the relationship, leaving Sandra with their two young children and $50,000 of debt in her name from the relationship; and this doesn’t include her student loan from studying.

Click here to learn more about economic harm


When he walked out Sandra started receiving the benefit.

Searching high and low, she said she couldn’t find any organisations that could help her get back on her feet again with the mountain of debt against her name and a terrible credit rating.

Sandra ended up moving in with her parents for 18 months and couldn’t go back to teaching because her mental health was so poor.

“I could hardly give to my own children, let alone teaching other kids.”

Over time, Sandra began finding herself again and started helping her mum out by folding invoices to go into envelopes. The church Sandra attends has several community outreach programmes and this is where Sandra found full time employment, reaching others who needed help like she once had.

When a Financial Mentor was absent, Sandra filled in – beginning her journey to helping people with their financial wellbeing.

“It was only supposed to be short term, for three months, but here I am helping people with their financial wellbeing to this day. I absolutely love it. I understood how people felt and I wanted to help them as best I could because I know how helpless it can feel.”

Being a Financial Mentor gave Sandra purpose – suddenly a new path was visible – helping adults with their financial wellbeing to break generational poverty.

A new chapter

While Sandra was working as a Financial Mentor, she stumbled across Good Shepherd NZ’s DEBTsolve programme, which supports people to take back control of their unmanageable debt through advocating, coaching and no interest debt solution loans.

Aligning with Good Shepherd NZ’s values and wanting to help people who were struggling to get back on top of their debts, Sandra first became a Financial Wellbeing Coach in the DEBTsolve programme.

“It’s so great to be a part of a programme that is so important to helping people with their financial wellbeing. I needed a programme like DEBTsolve when I was struggling, so being able to provide this service to people who are in a similar situation to the one I was in, is so rewarding – particularly when it isn’t their fault, because sometimes life just deals you a bad hand.”

Part of her job as a Financial Wellbeing Coach requires her to spot irresponsible lending and support clients to advocate and negotiate fairer outcomes for themselves.

“Watching my clients increase their options and learn about what good and bad credit looks like motivates me. I know the impact it’s making because I needed it so badly in the past. Being able to support and encourage them when they’re feeling low – just that impact alone can be life changing, it can even break generational poverty.”

Thanks to the support of her family and the skills learnt through programmes, all the debt from the previous relationship is gone. Sandra’s credit score has recovered and only a fraction of her student loan remains.

Now Sandra is motivated more than ever to support people across Aotearoa New Zealand with their financial wellbeing so they can have a better shot at the future they deserve. 

Sandra is now a Training and Capability Coach who supports our client facing team to best serve their clients

Ka pai Sandra.

Finding support

Sad woman being comforted by a friend

If you are concerned about economic harm or want to talk to someone about the money side of your relationship, our Financial Wellbeing Coach – Economic harm is trained in advocacy and understands the impact of economic harm. 

You can speak to her by calling 0800 466 370 option 4.

Or you can click here to find more support