Southland youths learn where to find help

William Harvey, 13, and Tama More, 14, competing in a code cracking challenge at the Invercargill Police station with ...
Kavinda Herath

William Harvey, 13, and Tama More, 14, competing in a code cracking challenge at the Invercargill Police station with constable Ashleigh Smail.

Helping Pacific Island youths learn about social services available to them was the focus of a programme run in Invercargill this week.

Pacific Island Advisory and Cultural Trust social worker Leona Notoa said it was important to educate youths on where to find help and it had been identified that Pacific Island youths were unaware of social services available in Southland that catered to their wellbeing.

"The focus is on helping them find solutions to their problems."

Kate McNaughton, 13, gets suited up for her challenge at the police station with constable Mel Hinga and Chris Maguire.
Kavinda Herath

Kate McNaughton, 13, gets suited up for her challenge at the police station with constable Mel Hinga and Chris Maguire.

The trust came up with a fun, meaningful and challenging way to introduce their youths to some of the services that were available, she said.

Based on the television show, the trust set up its own Amazing Race.

In nine groups, 35 youths went to 14 different organisations, including Youthline, Family Works, Number 10 and the Invercargill Police Station, Notoa said.

Lupe Taufa competing in a the teams first challenge at the Invercargill Police Station. Lupe ran to collect parts of a ...
Kavinda Herath

Lupe Taufa competing in a the teams first challenge at the Invercargill Police Station. Lupe ran to collect parts of a police vest to assemble in a timed challenge.

"I think it's really important to build those connections."

The groups raced around town completing challenges set up by the organisations, including busking, memory games and team work exercises.

At the police station, groups had to crack a code on walkie talkies or compete in a timed exercise to put together a police vest.

Kate McNaughton, 13, gets suited up for her challenge at the police station with constable Chris Maguire.
Kavinda Herath

Kate McNaughton, 13, gets suited up for her challenge at the police station with constable Chris Maguire.

Constable Mel Hinga said the race was more about the awareness of what was available to youths.

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Youths often saw "the grumpy side" of police, but the challenges allowed them to see a different, fun side of policing, she said.

The challenge allowed youths to build contacts at the organisation as well as learn about what they had to offer.

The biggest burdon for police was the uniform, so by challenging the youths to put it on or pull it apart it helped break down those boundaries, Hinga said.

Natoa said it was important to break the stigma around "the blue uniform".

"We want to let them know they're [the police] there to help us," she said.

"Trust is huge, they need to know they can trust the organisations."

Notoa said she was overwhelmed at the response from organisations.

"They all jumped on board and were excited.

"It spreads messages of hope."

The challenge was about everyone working together to be proud of the services available and to be proud of youths, she said.

The trust aims to host events every month to continue to build relationships within the group, work on team bonding as well as for them to get to know themselves, she said.

 - Stuff

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