Apiata to run youth camp
It's "a whole new ball game" at the High Wire Trust now that Corporal Willie Apiata's on board, trust chairman Calum Penrose says.
The Victoria Cross recipient said last week he would leave the army to take over running the Papakura trust's camp at Awhitu Peninsula.
Mr Apiata, who received the Victoria Cross for carrying an injured comrade to safety through gunfire in Afghanistan in 2004, will join a number of ex-SAS personnel already on the High Wire Trust staff.
"Having Willie will just be the icing on the cake," Mr Penrose says.
Mr Apiata says the decision to leave the military and take the High Wire job was not made lightly.
"I am very proud of my service with the New Zealand Defence Force and I am very grateful for all of the support I have received."
Though Mr Apiata will run the Awhitu camp he will still be on call with the SAS reserves.
"Willie is a loveable guy, he's a real family guy, he's generous but you'll never take the army out of Willie," Mr Penrose says.
He has "put in the hard graft" for New Zealand and now wants to do the same locally, he says.
"He wants to touch the hearts and the minds of young people in South Auckland."
Getting Mr Apiata on board is another step in the trust's mission to help at-risk youth.
"Often they're from dysfunctional families or haven't got role models within the home," Mr Penrose says.
"It's about showing that leadership to them, about young people learning a bit of respect and discipline."
The young people are referred through the Corrections and Justice ministries, the police and local schools.
"After two or three weeks within the trust you'll be absolutely amazed at the turnaround with those young people," he says.
"Their instructors have got them on a path, they've got some sort of direction they're going for and they want to know where they're going.
The trust's already seen a number of kids who dropped out of school at 14 or 15 achieve NCEA level one, he says.
"If they go into a classroom they start acting up big time. Why? They're bored. They don't know where they fit within society.
"Get them up on the high ropes, out abseiling or kayaking. Something that's going to really challenge them - then we put them through the classes so they can get their NCEA."
The trust also gets good buy-in from prospective employers, Mr Penrose says, because it challenges the mindset that "all young people want do is lie in bed in the morning, drag their sorry butts out of bed at about 10 o'clock and sit on a cellphone all day".