We all know the headlines: Air New Zealand has slashed its workforce in half, making more than 6500 staff redundant in the wake of coronavirus.

Some staff have been offered “furlough” – the option to come back to their jobs when international air travel is possible again. But most former cabin crew and ground staff are now having to re-imagine their lives and careers.

One of these people has found her way to our Great Potentials team.

Fiona Lead Professional for ChildrenMeet Fiona Rowland, mum of two, amateur showjumper and our new Lead Professional with the Children’s Team at our Family Service Centres. Fiona’s new role is focused on keeping vulnerable children safe in some of Auckland’s most disadvantaged communities – a long way from travelling the globe at 30,000 feet.

Fiona had been with Air New Zealand since 2014, after a varied career that began in the Thoroughbred breeding/racing industry and has included dairy farming, customer service and counselling.

Fiona trained as a counsellor in 2008 after losing both her parents and experiencing the power of therapy to help people deal with grief and loss. She worked for a number of years with community organisation, Iosis and loved it.

Fiona during her time as a flight attendantIn 2014, wanting a new challenge, she switched careers to become a flight attendant with Air New Zealand, working her way up to long haul cabin crew flying all over the world.

That is, until June 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic saw her join the long list of cabin crew who needed to find a new career.

“I remember feeling very anxious, scared, unprotected then angry as these events were all beyond my control. I was thinking ‘how am I going to pay all my bills?’ It was very scary and unsettling, not knowing what I was going to do next,” Fiona says.

Although offered the option of taking furlough Fiona decided against it.

“I really thought long and hard about it, as I enjoyed my job and had some amazing experiences and opportunities. However, I had already been thinking for the last couple of years, about moving back to a counselling or social services role. I saw my redundancy as an opportunity to do just that…”

In her search for new employment opportunities, Fiona came across a role advertised at Great Potentials and began to research the organisation.

“I read some published research around the HIPPY programme and the outstanding results they’ve achieved and thought how wonderful this was for our children and families. I then realised that Great Potentials offers so many other important services to my local community with potential to make a real difference and I wanted to become a part of that.”

Fiona’s new role helping to keep vulnerable children safe will involve positively engaging with families to foster relationships of trust and respect.

A South Aucklander herself, Fiona is looking forward to gaining a deeper understanding and knowledge of her local community. She is excited to join the Great Potentials team and is grateful to have an opportunity to make a difference for others.

In her spare time, Fiona enjoys eventing - show jumping, dressage and cross country horse riding