First Years in Gisborne
A few months after moving to Gisborne in 1998 we started a breakfast club for Kaiti School students at the Kaiti Mall – along with a great bunch of volunteers we fed 10-20 kids every morning. Later that year Tarsh and I started volunteering with Te Ora Hou, a local faith-based youth organisation connected to a national network of similar groups.
From 2000-2001 I was emloyed by Gisborne Girls’ High School and taught at the Activity Centre in Carnarvon St, a facility for high school students who have needs not being met by the mainstream education system. While teaching there I concluded that much of the behaviour the students demonstrated was a result of very few support systems existing for young people in the wider community – and not a lot of support for their parents either. I left teaching and started paid employment with Te Ora Hou.
Te Whare Whai Hua
In 2002 we established Te Whare Whai Hua, the school for teenage parents based at Lytton High School, an attached early childhood education centre and a social work support service for young parents. This service has catered for hundreds of young mothers over the short period of its existence and has provided a second-chance education for them and quality developmental opportunities for their children. Gisborne has the highest rate of teen pregancy in the country and many of these young mothers have been able to gain qualifications and a increased parenting skills through their involvement with Te Whare Whai Hua.
Te Ora Hou
Te Ora Hou also worked with young male offenders and provided day programmes designed to help address the causes of their offending and provide opportunities for them to access skills training and employment.
We established a community recording studio, a record label, community art space, youth radio station and many other initiatives – many of which are still going in some form or another.
Tairawhiti Youth Development
I have been the Chairperson of the Tairawhiti Youth Workers Council, a network of volunteer and paid youth workers who share information, support one another and advocate with young people to see community leaders ensure the voice of young people is included in any decision-making that affects them.
I was a Trustee of the Tairawhiti Youth Development Trust and led the 2003 Tairawhiti Youth Development Strategy design, research and reporting process. I was very disappointed when the Gisborne District Council gave back $40,000 provided by central government to support the implementation of the Youth Development Strategy which would have seen a range of improvements for young people in the region.
I have been involved with KaPai Kaiti residents association since it was established. Deanna Harrison and myself have been the volunteer coordinators of that group – which seems to enjoy wide community support in Kaiti and has organised regular events and other projects designed to make Kaiti an even better place to live.
I have been the editor of the Kaiti Korero community newsletter since 2003 and maintain the KaPai Kaiti website.
I am the Treasurer of Penu (Rongo-i-Te-Kai) Marae Committee and we are working on a range of plans and resources to help the marae fulfill its role as a unique context for inter-generational connectedness and cultural continuity within and between whanau.
Other Local Involvement
I have been one of the organisers for Tairawhiti Men Against Violence and have helped many other local community organisations in their efforts around youth suicide prevention, abuse prevention, gang intervention, prisoner rehabilitation, community gardens, youth entrepreneurship, after-school and in-school programmes, youth leadership programmes, community research, business development, etc.
I am a member of the Gisborne Branch of the Royal Forest & Bird Society (though I haven’t been to a meeting for a while!). As part of KaPai Kaiti I have led projects that have received the Keep Gisborne Beautiful award 2 or 3 times and have organised a beach clean up on 18 August at Kaiti Beach as part of the Clean Up NZ national campaign.
Since 2005 I have been the (voluntary) Director of the Pacific Centre for Participatory Democracy. Last year we organised a five day event near Ruatoria that brought 60 young people from around the Pacific, Europe and New Zealand together to discuss ideas and experiences relating to democracy, identity and citizenship for minority groups. Since 2005 the PCPD in partnership with the Gisborne Environment Centre and Tairawhiti Polytechnic has organised Winter Lecture Series that bring interesting guest speakers to Gisborne to present on issues of global and local significance. On 15 August we have organised Dr Bryan Gould to speak on how globalisation devalues your vote and what you can do about it.
Through my involvement with Te Ora Hou Aotearoa I support Youth Action Nepal, a national youth and human rights organisation in Nepal; and I am Chairperson of the NZ branch of Design for Dignity, a small economic development initiative based in Ethiopia.