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Te Rina Ruru-Pelasio

Former Young Carer

Growing up my brother was my father figure.  I looked up to him and I loved him, he was always my safe space.


When I was 16 years old my brother sustained a severe traumatic brain injury and the brother I looked to as a father figure, became someone I didn’t know. So when I was 16 years old I became one of his primary carers.  I went to physiotherapy, speech therapy and tended all his requirements when Mum wasn’t able to, this wasn’t something I had prepared for, it was not a role I was asked to even do but Mum couldn’t do it by herself and it was a role that I took on as part of my whanau.  

My brother, had his own battles, he knew what he had lost, he knew he had changed and the rage and grief he felt with the loss were frightening and it was real.  I struggled to love someone who would yell, kick and abuse me, this person in my brother's body constantly hurting me was something I couldn’t understand.  My safe place had turned into something I no longer recognised, something that wounded and hurt.  My mother would make excuses for him because of his brain injury and so I grieved for the brother who had protected me and loved me, the person he used to be and I grieved for what I had lost.

The overwhelming feeling of pressure, anger, hurt, resentment, guilt and sadness began to be all I knew.  My whanau was already going through enough without having to deal with me and leaving was never an option and I stopped talking to anyone about it at all.  I was always tired and never had any time to myself.  My school work suffered, I lost focus on myself and started to believe that I no longer had a future that was mine.  Any moment I had alone or any moment I found any joy or happiness was followed with guilt and I started to believe that I didn't deserve those moments.

By the time I met Phoenix Rain (Holistic Healer) I was on a fast track to becoming another statistic, a number on a list of data;  young, Maori female, high school dropout, who self-harmed and meddled with drugs and alcohol.  Phoenix saw through the rage, the guilt and the self-loathing and worked with me and my whanau and together we began our healing journey.  Phoenix taught me to believe in myself, learn coping skills, how to dream and that it was ok for me to have a future with goals and aspirations.  With her guidance, I learned to love myself again. To own my own identity and then be a daughter, a sister and eventually be a wife.  To arm me with resilience and create a true sense of self-worth that I would carry to my adulthood. 

I graduated from the University of Waikato with a Bachelor of Laws and a Bachelor of Social Science. II have a healthy and supportive whanau with goals, aspirations.

My brother has his story and my mother has her story. This is my story and this is a story I share to give courage to others that find their role now as young carers so that they know that they have someone to connect with, who understands.

Together, Phoenix and I have co-founded Camp Unity.  Our aim is to support other Young Carers, helping them on their holistic healing journey.  Helping them learn to cope, believe in themselves and to dream of a future with goals and aspirations.

Te Rina Ruru-Pelasio


Young Carer

I remember the day we were woken by a knock on the door.  I clearly see my mother’s face – the total look of disbelief – I was only 4. 


My father was a passenger in a car and suffered a severe TBI – my strong daddy, who used to lift me up and take me everywhere disappeared that day.  Nobody ever sat me down and explained to me why he was in the hospital, why he wouldn’t wake up but I was only four. 

My mother left my dad 6 weeks after the accident.  So, after 5 months I finally got to visit him every second weekend and half the holidays.  I would lie on his arm and watch movies.  He would fall asleep because “Tinkerbell” wasn’t his thing.  But he would still lie there and hold me.  That was our time and that was how we communicated.   He couldn’t talk and I couldn’t read. 

Time passed and I would visit and watch.  Help wherever I could.  Help to feed him, wipe his face and anything else I could. do.  But I quickly developed the role of his protector.    Everybody focused on making him better and nobody explained to me why he was in a chair, why he couldn’t walk and why he couldn’t talk.  Maybe they all assumed I knew.  But I didn’t.  I was always so scared for him, and my heartfelt bruised. 

It wasn’t until I was in Intermediate that it hit me.  I felt different to the other kids.  When I visited my dad, I would help him whenever I could.  Because he couldn’t talk to me, I felt the only way we could connect was if I did things for him.  So, I fell into the young carer role.  I felt overwhelmed with emotions, and I didn’t know whom I could talk to I was the only person in my class who had a dad in a wheelchair.  I couldn’t talk to my friends because they didn’t understand. I couldn’t talk to my family because they were so focused on my dad.  So, I kept my emotions to myself.  I felt so excluded so I started to feel angry.  My grades dropped, my attitude got bad, and my emotions started to come out the wrong way.  Small issues became overwhelming. 

I am now 18 and spend more time with my dad and still have the role of a young carer.  I was lucky enough to be one of the young carers that has been working with Phoenix Rain

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