Rangatahi gaining help
For the last eight years, Pongakawabased Youth Encounter has delivered approximately 17,000 hours of faceto-face therapy with at risk young people. The rangatahi are often disengaged from the education system and failing academically, struggling with behavioural and social issues, have mental health issues, are abused and neglected, have suicidal ideation and self-harm. Struggles with family breakdowns and lack of connection, criminal activity, drug and alcohol abuse, financial hardship and gang affiliation are all commonplace. “Our therapy programme was originally called Dirt Bike Encounter, but with the addition of activities such as surfing, to deliver the therapy, we now refer to the programme as Encounter Therapy,” says founder Mary Wanhill. Youth Encounter’s first therapy group was in 2014 and since then it has engaged more than 150 young people. “We are empowering our young people to change the direction their life is headed, and to turn towards a hope-filled future as they live from their true value of incredible potential. Youth Encounter has been super blessed with 12 dirt bikes, riding gear, surfboards, wetsuits and some incredible staff who have delivered the programme. With a group of students from Te Puke’s Alternative Education centre, the organisation is currently running its 20th therapy group, adding another five rangatahi to those who have completed the eight-week course using dirt bike riding to deliver the group therapy. “We have also had 55 young people engage in one-onone therapy sessions, where our trained counsellors facilitate challenging the youth’s thought patterns while empowering them in creating new ways of thinking, about themselves and life. We have completed our first course using surfing as the activity and look forward to developing this into the future.” Almost a third of the young people who have received Youth Encounter’s therapy have continued on with further engagement in some of our other programmes. “It has always been our dream to grow the opportunities Youth Encounter can offer our young people and with our newly established mentoring programme we are seeing a definite increase in our continued engagement in young people’s lives. A mahi programme for employment skills and transitioning into workplaces is planned.