Community Group Hui – Rangatahi in Full Focus

Several things rang true from the recent community group hui: community spirit and service is still alive and kicking on Aotea, we are lucky to have some extraordinary people engaged in chair, manager and operational roles, who are going above and beyond and driving forwards initiatives for the island, particularly when it comes to our rangatahi.

Beverley Slater, General manager of AFSG kicked off the meeting. Bev is six months into her new role and has a background in clinical psychology and aged care. She has worked with the new trust and staff to overhaul the organisation, leaving no stone unturned. AFSG’s future is looking bright, with new policies in place, accounting procedures established, renegotiations of key contracts for aged care and more recently, after pulling back to a skeletal service, the youth programme has been reignited, with Ebony Kite-Bell at the Helm and new key staff members back on board.

They still face challenges, including that they are down to a single van which is the life line for all the youth programmes and transporting rangatahi to the Learning Hub. Watch out for AFSG fundraising events!

Jan Piahana, Michelle McGregor and Nancy Tait from Kawa Marae also attended. Last year they were asked to take on the youth club and school holiday program from AFSG. They had nothing but positive sentiment to share about running the programme at the marae, giving kids a chance to be on the marae and engage in activities not normally offered. They have now gathered some exciting equipment for rangatahi, like the Waka Ama from Hillary Outdoors, kayaks and a table tennis table. They are hoping for even more uptake from Southern families as they begin to understand the programme is easy to access and use.

Also in attendance was the Learning Hub’s new operations manager, Jo Bourke. She has nothing but passion for education and children who don’t quite ‘fit inside the box’ and finding the thing that makes each rangatahi click. She shared with the group that one of her four children was unmotivated and struggled during his teens. It took a YMCA programme to get him going, rock climbing and engaging in outdoor pursuits; today he hangs on ropes from some of from the highest buildings in Sweden and is a kayak instructor living a full and fulfilling life. Jo knows first hand the importance of outdoor and environmental education.

She also shared that the Hub now has one year of funding left and they are looking at alternatives, like a charter school with NZQA qualifications. This would offer assured funding and stability, with two 10 year rights of renewal. Jo also noted that having a charter school on island would not affect the bursary for boarding that families are eligible to receive, which has always been a concern for the establishment of a secondary school on the island.

It’s a tall order, but Jo is keen to get started and judging by the responses in the room, it is recognised across all the organisations that providing our rangatahi with quality education on the island or supporting them in the transition to education off the island is absolutely essential.

With many thanks to the Barrier Bulletin, for sharing notes from the hui.