Laures Tumata is unrecognisable.

For 12 years, depression and grief after the death of her son left her angry, unemployed and alone raising children.

Her "world fell apart", she was zoned out and closed off.

Last month, she cut off her long black hair, took off the beanie hiding her eyes and bought "nice clothes".

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A new door for job training had opened.

She wanted to make a good impression this time, despite her nerves and lack of confidence.

Last week, she completed her first week working since 2006.

Laures Tumata at work at Novotel. Photo / Stephen Parker
Laures Tumata at work at Novotel. Photo / Stephen Parker

Many people turn their nose up at room attendants' work, but Laures "loves" it.

"I don't like going home ... sometimes they've got to throw me out," she joked when speaking to the Rotorua Daily Post.

"It's the last thing I think about before I go to sleep, and the first thing when I wake up in the morning."

Work gives her a reason to get out of bed in the morning, "instead of being in a depressed state".

Tumata's new role at Novotel comes after a series of changes and opportunities in the past two months.

Through Work and Income, she was invited to a seminar about the Building Futures programme with AccorHotels.

She went along with no idea what it was about, but she left "intrigued".

A week later she got a call from project manager Nicolette van Lieshout asking her to train and learn at the assessment centre, and meet employers.

"We had the opportunity to set tables and make beds. This was a great way to bring out my OCD," Tumata confessed when she graduated five weeks later.

The Rotorua Daily Post was there to see the 27 graduates receive their certificates from Bay of Plenty Labour List MP Angie Warren-Clarke.

Tumata's classmates included fellow mothers Carly Parkinson and Katrina Sime.

They started new jobs in Rotorua last week too, at Novotel and Sudima.

Before the course, Parkinson was homeless, and Sime had never had a job at age 34.

Carly Parkinson (left) and Katrina Sime. Photo / File
Carly Parkinson (left) and Katrina Sime. Photo / File

For Tumata, the best change was having social skills and a sense of humour back.

She smiles, she laughs, she loves her workmates and she calls the Novotel uniform woman "Aunty".

Her family were left asking "is that really her or is it just a phase?"

"My depression had been so real for them for so long," she said.

"The norm is I say something and then don't turn up."

As Julie Marino explains, "it's very hard when you've lived a different life for so long".

"Not having to come to work, not having to answer to anybody, not having to do what you're told."

Van Lieshout said she was able to break the ice with Tumata when they spoke of things they had in common; children.

"We found a flower that just needed good soil and a sprinkle of water," she said.

"We didn't talk much about the past only the future of what could be and Tumata was open to trying anything."

Where to get help:

Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
Youth services: (06) 3555 906
Youthline: 0800 376 633
Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
The Word
Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
CASPER Suicide Prevention If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.