Honoured for youth work

16:00, Jan 15 2013
stephen bell
DEDICATED: Youthline chief executive Stephen Bell was appointed a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit after 27 years at the organisation.

Stephen Bell doesn't have a clue who nominated him for a New Year honour, but says his appointment as a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit brings about an "interesting mixture of feelings".

The Youthline chief executive received the honour for services to youth, after nearly three decades of working for the charitable organisation.

"In some ways, to be doing the work I'm doing I'm quite blessed, but it's been bloody hard," he says.

"So on one hand it feels really nice to be acknowledged and on the other hand I feel a bit bashful."

Mr Bell says the honour reflects the dedication of everyone involved in growing Youthline from a telephone counselling service into the multifaceted machine it is today.

These days the organisation offers youth development opportunities, an in-house secondary school and provides support services to youth in the Cook Islands via phone and text messages.


Mr Bell says the biggest learning curve in his 27-year journey with the organisation has been his own development.

"When I joined in 1985 as a volunteer it was very much about me as a person," he says.

"I had heard about it through flatmates who were involved and were raving about the training so I thought I would check it out."

Mr Bell had a background in business and had been studying nursing.

He started by volunteering on the phones and performing in a group that visited schools and prisons.

He shifted his focus in the 1990s to improving his skills as a counsellor, therapist and youth worker.

"Then the last 10 years have been about creating an organisation that can do great things," he says.

"As the organisation grew in the 90s I had to make a decision whether to carry on as a practitioner or as a manager.

"And though the practice still pulls me I decided I could create more capacity for that sort of work as a manager."

Many of the challenges facing today's youth are the same as three decades ago - the challenges of growing up, leaving school and learning about themselves.

However, Mr Bell says the advances in social media can help youth open up and talk more easily about what is going on in their lives.

"The biggest barrier for young people to get help has always been a sense of stigma and embarrassment, so there things are evolving."

A major focus for Youthline will be expanding digitally over the next few months.

New staff have been hired to take its online presence to the next level.

"I'm really excited to see what we can do in terms of e-learning and e-content," Mr Bell says.

"In the next year I want to have 10,000 people connected to us through social media."

An estimated 50,000 to 60,000 youth make contact with Youthline each year.

Go to youthline.co.nz for information on Youthline.

Others on the New Year Honours List

A man who has works to provide decent homes for disadvantaged families and a publisher who builds ties between India and New Zealand were among the Aucklanders recognised in the New Year honours list. Beginning his career as an apprentice carpenter Ian Hay went on to become the founding chairman of Habitat for Humanity in 1993.

Mr Hay served in this role until 2005, and in 2008 was appointed director of the non-profit organisation which works to house families in need.

In the same year he joined the board of directors for the Fijian branch of Habitat for Humanity.

His other posts include chairman of the Keith Hay Charitable Trust, honorary member of the New Zealand Building Inspectors Institute and sitting on the board of directors of the New Zealand Housing Industry Association.

Mr Hay was also patron of the New Zealand Trampoline Association from 1984 to 1995.

For his services to the community, Mr Hay was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit. Publisher Giri Gupta has long facilitated ties between India and New Zealand and is a strong supporter of the New Zealand Indian Community.

Since 2006, he has been involved with the India Trade Group and is currently deputy chairman.

He is the director of Ethnic Media Information New Zealand and publishes the fortnightly news magazine The Indian Weekender, which he established in 2009.

Mr Gupta spearheaded a fundraising effort to donate an ambulance to St John Ambulance services on behalf of the Indian New Zealand community.

For his services to the Indian community, Mr Gupta was awarded the Queen's Service Medal.

Central Leader