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Youth find direction

JANIE SMITH
Last updated 05:00 16/07/2010
dream
JASON OXENHAM

DREAM TEAM: I Have a Dream project co-ordinator Antony Backhouse, front, has been given aMt Roskill Community Award for his work with young people. From back left: Programme members Dwayne Talisa and Kenese Semia. Front, from left: Amanda Iakopo, Mosa Mafileo, Raela Varu and Anna Moala. Photo: JASON OXENHAM

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A SONG written after completing a gruelling hike called I'll Get There Eventually sums up the aspirations of a group of youngsters tackling life's challenges head on.

The former Wesley Primary School students, who are now in year 11 at various high schools, are part of the I Have a Dream project and are aiming for tertiary study under the guidance of Antony Backhouse, or Coach Ant as he is known.

The New Zealand branch of the project that started in the United States was set up in 2003 by philanthropist Scott Gilmour.

The charitable trust aims to fund the tutoring and mentoring provided to all 53 students on the programme and all those who make it to university will have their fees paid.

Mr Backhouse has been involved from the start as the programme co-ordinator, supporting the students and giving help and advice – even dealing with the occasional middle-of-the-night crisis.

Recently, he took a group of 20 students to do the Tongariro crossing in what he describes as "quite marginal weather".

"Everyone was pretty wet and cold."

Mr Backhouse used the various stages of the climb as analogies for different stages of life and education and the whole team made it through the challenge.

They were so inspired, a group of six students have recorded a song written by Mr Backhouse and student Mosa Mafileo, who also composed the music.

Mosa, who goes to Mt Albert Grammar School, says the programme has created direction in life for himself and his fellow students.

"It has helped us with our own problems, family problems, school problems. It is a great asset in life and it's a blessing and a wonderful opportunity to be part of the programme."

He plans to study law and politics at university once he finishes high school.

Mosa says he appreciates "having Coach Ant around, helping us and taking time out to visit us at home and school".

Mr Backhouse was recently presented with a Mt Roskill Community Award by the Mt Roskill Community Board for his work with the I Have a Dream Trust.

He says he loves seeing the kids find their talents and dreams and seeing them work towards them.

He was pleased to be honoured.

"At the same time, I don't do anything amazingly different or new that deserves an award, so to speak. The difference is that I do it."

He says it's easy to sit back and pick apart society's issues without helping.

"I believe Coach does deserve it," says Mosa. "He's always been there for us, believing in us. He's like another dad to all of us."

For a full list of award recipients see P4

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