The Ricky Effect
THE RICKY EFFECT
I've been away the last two weeks for work and it was with great sadness that I read that the Waves Youth Health and Development Service has closed its doors after five years.
I have a huge personal attachment to Waves - it is where I started my life in 2007. Lou, Chris, Ronnie, Kirsty and all of the other youth work team ran a tight ship, for the benefit of all Taranaki youth.
I am aware that they had more than 5000 young people registered in the service, with an incredible active register of over 3000. A major feat for yet another charity running on a very tiny and disappearing budget.
Waves has been a fundamental and essential service in our region, catering for the physical, sexual and health needs of our kids and teens.
The countless hours worked there by Lou, the team and myself saw us all gain grey hair, but it was a place that made an incredible difference in our community.
NIMBY is a term I have come to know very well over the years in the community/youth work field. It means "Not in my back yard"- an attitude many Kiwis have towards our ever-present societal needs.
It's not a blatant denial that there is abuse and poverty out there, it's more of an apathy towards its existence.
It is all too easy for us to lay down blame on parents and how terrible they are, and it's all too easy for us to 'like' a facebook status about an "issue" we have a narrow opinion on. It's even easier for us to sponsor a child in Africa, than to support our own.
However, when it comes to kids going to school hungry, not having a decent breakfast and packed lunch, it appears there is now a growing movement of support and triumph.
Sure, there are still NIMBY extremists on one side of the issue pointing and blaming other people, but it appears more and more New Zealanders are starting to give and help.
They say you are what you eat. True statement to an extent, but when you're genetically awkward like me, things can be pretty bloody annoying.
More often than not, the world looks at people who are larger than usual and writes them off as McDonald's leeches, obese by choice, overweight, lazy slobs.
But then there's people like me - tall, skinny bean poles with not much muscle mass, who must be anorexic, underweight, unhealthy people who eat nothing but chips and live a terribly unhealthy lifestyle.
Surely it's a mix of your lifestyle choices and genetics that truly determine what you're going to look like, right? Wrong. It's the lifestyle choice that determines your mood, attitude and how you deal with your genetics.
It's a sad reality that people at both ends of the spectrum are envious of each other. Some, shall we say, well-built, people often say to me "I wish I was as skinny as you", to which I often reply, "well how about you give me some of your mass, and we'll both be happy".
I'm wondering what life would be like if they raised the drinking age to 20. Things probably wouldn't be too different - young people are resourceful and sneaky. Would it actually affect our 'drinking culture'?
I had my first beer when I was 12. It was a regular occurrence for me to have a few beers when I was with my family at certain events and places, supervised of course. But when I was 14, I started stealing beers out of the fridge - pulling the cans more to the front to give an illusion that there were still lots there. Dad couldn't recall drinking that many but went with the flow anyway.
I was pulled up on it eventually, and my parents expressed their disappointment. They said something like "we would rather know you were drinking than you being sneaky about it".
At the time, that was the green light I had been waiting for, to get on it with mates at our under-age parties filled with binging rage, copious amounts of booze, loud music and other more adventurous things.
Sure, we puked and we ended up with random cuts and bruises, we did things we regretted, but hey, it was an experience beyond our age and I came to understand what not to do.
Last week saw some pretty historic stuff happening in New Zealand.
The big wigs in the Beehive voted to keep the alcohol age at 18 (much to the disgust of many health-orientated organisations).
We also saw the Marriage Amendment Bill enter its next stage, which could well see our nation embrace a major societal change, allowing same-sex couples to marry and possibly adopt children, much to the disgust of religious groups and other conservative, old-school people.
That has created a real battleground on the internet, and Bob McCoskrie of Family First has been a target in recent months. He was on the news because a group of people flooded one of his anti-marriage equality sites, which resulted in it shutting down for a while.
In my short 23 years I don't think I've seen such a powerful lobbying movement before from all sides of a debate! It is easy for people to have a strong voice and presence online, it's easy to click 'like' on facebook, it's easy to comment on a status, and it's even easy to sign a petition online.
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