Nō Ingarangi oku tīpuna
I whānau mai ahau i tipu ake i hoki i Whakatū
He pākehā ahau
Ko Caitlin Westgate toku ingoa
E ai ki te kōreō – E tangi ana nga reanga o uta, e mahara ana nga reanga a taima ta aha ra e whakamahana taku ora kia tina
Nō reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tatou katoa.
My name is Caitlin and I was born in Nelson and have lived here most of my life. I am married to my husband Jonny and we have two children, a dog, a cat and a turtle. We also live with and care for my older sister who has Down Syndrome.
My journey towards becoming a social worker probably unconsciously started from birth. However, the driving influence behind starting my degree would be the challenges I faced in my early youth and wanting to become a better social worker or counsellor than the ones I had encountered as a young person.
In 2017 I completed a certificate in counselling and social work to help me decide which degree I would pursue. I began my bachelor degree in social work in 2018, having decided that while I enjoyed the narrative aspects of counselling, the broader scope of social work practices and opportunities would be more suited to my personality. Throughout my degree I targeted many of my assessments towards understanding the social challenges that young people face. From my own experiences I knew that I wanted to work predominatly with young people. I completed my third year placement at Whanake Youth – A multi disciplinary agency that provides wrap around services to young people through schools and communities in the top of the South Island. This placement led to me being employed as a social worker at a local intermediate to support students in their return to school following the 2020 Covid-19 lockdown. In 2021 I resumed my studies and began my year four placement in the Youth Justice team at Oranga Tamariki. Whilst I appreciate my placement at Oranga Tamariki for the learning that I gained and the ‘insiders’ understanding of how the agency works – I quickly realised that I am better suited to working in community roles where I have the flexibility to build authentic, therapeutic realtionships with the people I work with. Following my graduation at the end of 2021 I returned to Whanake Youth to continue my role there. I love my Whanake whānau but when an opportunity arose for me to work at Fossil Creek Farm Trust I had to pursue it.
My social work dream has always been to buy some land and build a home where I could rescue animals and ‘rescue’ teenagers – particularly ones who have been placed in the ‘too hard basket’ by other agencies. I believed that this would combine my love for working with young people with my love for animals. I have always been an animal lover. Six years ago I was encouraged by a friend to reduce my meat intake for physical health reasons. This led to my transitioning out of eating any animal or animal products at all. I have now been vegan for five years and firmly hold the mindset that I love animals so much that I don’t eat them – The whakataukī in my mihimihi can be translated to mean “When the land, river and sea creatures are in distress then I have nothing to be proud of”.
I have come to know Fossil Creek as a stunning, serene, safe space with incredible energy. I love every animal equally and could not possibly choose a favourite – They are all such individual, beautiful souls. And like young people, I enjoy working alongside them all.