by Helen Martin
When the suicide of popular Helensville teenager Te Kanapa Bedgood (T.K.) devastated the local community in June 2015, initiatives were taken to consider how to prevent such a tragedy happening again. In one key move, Rodney Board Chair Brenda Steele organised community huis at Te Whare Oranga, bringing people together to share their thoughts on suicide prevention. Those attending included South Kaipara Youth Workers Jeanette Cummings and Alex van Dam. As Helensville Women and Family Centre Groups Coordinator, Jeanette then formed a sub-group to focus on the existing youth supports and to identify any gaps. Under the umbrella of the Helensville Women and Family Centre, and made possible by local board funding, Jeanette’s role included forming the Youth Initiative Sharing Group (YIS).
With the kaupapa that youth needed inspiration to help them “benefit from their education, grow their identity and transition into independence”, this youth-focussed group of volunteers took part in brainstorming sessions, questionnaires and discussions, eventually identifying two areas of need. Youth in rurally isolated South Kaipara “in some cases lacked the inspiration to dream beyond their life experience or often a belief in themselves to achieve that,” says Jeanette. Also identified was the challenge for whanau to meet the growing costs of supporting youth in their aspirations.
YIS then established the Gavan Spillane Memorial Youth Scholarship (GSMYS), a sustainable scholarship for local youth, named after a Helensville man who did much to support and inspire young people, including Alex van Dam.
The idea for a scholarship to offer youth an overseas experience complemented both Alex’s interest in taking partin a Habitat for Humanity project and the kaupapa of YIS having local youth included and supported by a local youth worker. “Alex is a living example of a young person who was inspired to dream and we wanted to recreate that for our youth,” says Jeanette.
After Year 11 Kaipara College student and former South Kaipara Youth member Qunique Monga-Tawara was selected for the Habitat for Humanity project, the serious business of fund raising began. With Qunique’s mother Suzanne, Alex and Jeanette steering the initiatives, and with a lot of community support, enough money was raised to get the pair to Thailand. “Getting the money together stretched our thinking, “says Alex. “Suzanne and her whanau were instrumental in the Soul Food cook ups that did so well and the local sponsorship and community support were great.”
For Qunique and Alex, the experience of helping a Thai family build their blockhouse was life-changing. For YIS, the project provided successful platform forfuture years. “Restored hope is a key to surviving depression and suicidality,“ says Jeanette. “When Q came back, hearing about his experience and opportunities helped other youth imagine it could happen for them.”
In addition to the scholarship, a framework to offer Whanau Supported Funding (WSF) was developed to allow local whanau to be supported in their own fundraising initiatives for youth. As well as preparing for applications for next year’s scholarship, YIS will be taking requests from families with other extra-curricular expenses who are willing to fundraise alongside them.
YIS would like to acknowledge their sponsors: The Lions Club of Helensville; Rodney Board; SeaDoe 2 Plumbing and Gasfitting; The Angel Fund; St Joseph’s Catholic Church; Christian Life Centre; Physio Flex; Helensville Chemist; Woodhill Mountain Bike Park; Parakai Springs; Healing Heart of Helensville; Helensville Women and Family Centre; CH’I International; Helensville Liquor Centre; William Robert Boyd; South Kaipara Blue Light.
For information on applying for the Gavan Spillane Memorial Youth Scholarship or Whanau Supported Funding see: Helensville Women and Family Centre website www.HWFC.co.nz; , Facebook page @hwfc1; contact Jeanette 027560457