Success Stories

Ruby’s story

Being a Stars Peer Mentor for my year 9 form class has been the most enjoyable way to finish my schooling, if anything Stars motivated me to carry on this year. Not too far into the year I was ready to leave school, but the responsibility and bond I built with the kids through the year definitely motivated me to keep going. I learnt that being part of something to help others is an easy and very rewarding thing to do if you just prioritise and manage your time. I learnt that when you put in the effort with the kids you are rewarded with a special relationship with each one of your year nines. 

Read more

After our camp I would be able to walk into my year nine form class and create a conversation with each child, whether it was about subjects (which the kids were all interested in asking questions about) or a student wanting advice about problems or situations at school, I was honoured to be trusted by my year nines. Another win was that although I could have an older sister like relationship with the kids and joke around, they also respected me enough to listen if I asked them to be quiet for the teacher, or wanted to have a serious conversation about being safe online.

I learnt that I can create relationships with even the most withdrawn or “rebellious” people, like Bobby who was very quiet and sat by himself, he just needed to be introduced and made to feel comfortable. He now is friends with half the class and sits with the kids happily in conversation which was amazing to watch as he grew closer to the other students. By being involved in the Stars program it furthered my love of working/ being involved with people and helping them to become more confident in themselves.

My role in the community project: I alongside two of my other Peer Mentors organised dates and encouraged the kids to bring in hammers while informing them about how the rat traps we would build would be used. On the day of the rat trap building I went and built traps alongside my students, helping them with the instructions and encouraging them to do as many as possible. Overall it was a wonderful experience that I wouldn't trade. I thank you and the Graeme Dingle Foundation

Samara’s Story

GRATEFUL is how Samara Read feels as she is about to turn her lifelong dream of being a nurse into a reality, and begin a diploma in nursing in Hamilton. Speaking to a group of Tauranga businesses and sports people, including television personality Peter Williams and Black Cap Kane Williamson, at the Bay Oval last week, she exudes confidence and self assurance.

It is a long way from the “angry” girl she described herself as at a teenager, when she used to get into trouble at school, fights, and struggled to deal with the fact when she was 13 her father had been dealt a prison sentence as lengthy as her age.

Read more

Diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety, she says her future felt bleak. That was back in 2015 when she was selected with a group of other high school teenagers to be part of Project K. The initiative, for selected Year 10 students, is a 14-month course involving wilderness adventure, a community challenge and individual mentoring. The programme, which runs in Otumoetai and Mount Maunganui Colleges, is designed to build confidence, teach life skills, promote good health and encourage a positive attitude. Read describes the wilderness challenge as pushing her to her physical and mental limits. “It was literally blood, sweat and tears. We went from Coromandel to the Kaimais, battling currents, learning survival techniques and when I had physicaly reached my limit, that was when I let go of many of the things built up inside of me.” 

Another part of the project saw her helping out at Kaka Street School and working at Tauranga’s food bank. Through these initiatives, Read was able to discover skills she didn’t know she had. “I learned actually I was a really good leader.” Gaining confidence and self esteem was key. “I learned that I am so much more than the bad events that had happened in my life, and I did not have to be defined by those events.” The event at which Read spoke was to raise awareness of the Graeme Dingle Foundation, which is the charity which runs Project K, as well as Stars, another high school programme for Year 9s to help the often tricky transition into high school by pairing them with Year 13 mentors. It also runs Kiwi Can which reaches 2500 5-12 year olds in the Western Bay of Plenty. 

The Foundation’s namesake, mountaineer and outdoor education pioneer Sir Graeme Dingle, had a goal to transform young lives “with a vision that all young people can be confident contributors to New Zealand”. The foundation’s regional manager, Dan Allen-Gordon, told the audience the programmes relied on funding, and the demand for the foundations programmes often outstrips what they can fund. “There are kids falling through the gaps because there are not enough resources to go around. This is a tragedy because what we do know is these programmes work - taking kids that are disconnected or come from difficult backgrounds or on the wrong path for whatever reason, building a relationship with them and helping them find confidence to follow their dreams.”

Sofia’s story

Like too many of the children of Aotearoa, I grew up in survival mode. Just trying to make it through each day. I grew up in dysfunctional parental care bouncing from house to house. By the age of 10 I had taken drugs, smoked cigarettes and drank a lot – I was still in primary school. I started running away from home and sleeping on the streets just to get away. My circumstances, choices and the abuse that I had endured was leading me down a destructive path. Just before I was chosen for Project K, the police and the justice system got involved, this would have been one of the lowest and hardest times in my life. I was very depressed, suicidal and had been self-harming for over 3 years at this point.

Read more

The first time I tried to commit suicide I was 13 and I stayed home from school one day and swallowed a bottle of pills. When someone asked me years later if that was a cry for help I said no. You see I didn’t tell anyone and when my mother returned home I just lay in bed in wait for it to be all over. At that time in my life, I did not believe there was any help that was going to be available to me, there was nobody to cry to.

Project K honestly has saved my life and it gave me that help, resilience and support when I needed it most.

Something happened the moment I got chosen for Project K. It was like I felt actually important, that out of all the students in my school, I got picked. That someone saw potential in me that I didn’t even see in myself. Before Project K my goals were to make it to my 18th birthday and not be a teen mum. I moved out of “home” and stayed in school and passed year 13. Every single aspect of Project K gave me the ability to do this. I remember not being too scared about it because I knew I wasn’t truly alone, that the Project K Manager and my mentor and other support was there and they would help me. Project K isn’t just a year-long programme. It’s a lifetime, it has changed my life. I am now studying at University and enjoying life. I honestly with my whole heart don’t think I would be alive today if it wasn’t for Project K. Project K saved me.

David’s story

Hi my name is David. I might look like your ordinary 11 year old but the challenges I have faced and the struggles I have been through is what makes me different. I want to talk about how Kiwi Can helps every Kiwi kid and alternative learners who receive Kiwi Can and provides skills for building positive relationships and dealing with hard situations, developing in us resilience and self-esteem.In term one we learnt about Positive Relationships, in term two we learnt Integrity, which is doing the right thing even when no-one is watching, and term three is Resilience and term four is Respect.

Read more

In year three I had a particular teacher who didn’t really understand me. If a kid did something very bad to me they wouldn’t get in trouble, I did though. Even if the teacher saw them. If I retaliated I would be the one in trouble. Often I would get in trouble and I would cry to my mum about it. Then one night it all got too much. Me and my mum had a serious chat. I said that “I hate myself”, “I am dumb” and “I wish I was never born”. Then my mum went to that teacher and showed proof that I had A.D.H.D and dyslexia and he didn’t even believe THAT!

In the middle of the term I changed schools and It was amazing. Everyone was amazing. I thought it was the best school ever, until I came to Katikati College and went through Kiwi Can.
Now when I finished primary school in another town, I moved to the Western Bay of Plenty and started at a Kiwi Can school. I had to do something different which was called Kiwi Can. I thought it was going to be boring. But when we started I was bouncing off the walls like ‘Willy Nilly’ and I loved it so much. It was for everyone. I liked how the activities had guidelines that students could easily follow. I like how it included everyone and helped to build a team. These are some of the ways Kiwi Can is suitable for alternative learners and every Kiwi kid. Kiwi Can actually made me care more about people that previously bullied me. It helps me work with people I don’t really work well with and see things in a new way. I do dance and Kiwi Can helped me not be the shy one in my group and helped me be more confident! My con-fidence came from doing the Kiwi Can activities. Also I now know that I have real friends and what that actually means. Before Kiwi Can I thought I had friends but understand better now what true friends are and how to be a good friend back. Before Kiwi Can I didn’t have friends or a voice and now I do.

Now that’s my story and how Kiwi Can has helped me. It is an important programme to run in schools, I should know. I hope this programme never comes to an end and that more students in New Zealand can experience it. Thank you Kiwi Can, for your ideas and your inspiration. I’m keeping it in my brain because it’s changing the way I’m thinking and you’ve just helped me through a lot of things.”

Acer’s Story

When it was dark enough for the streetlights to turn on my brothers would pick me up from home and we would walk the streets. We always had the urge to feel alive. I wanted to feel like Pete from the movie Green Street Hooligans. We would steal radios and sell them, steal cars and crash them, break windows of homes and cars. Sneak into houses we thought were rich, so it would be a bigger score. Like we were in an action movie.

Read more

I was 14 and  I was naughty, hated school and wanted to drop out early. I was shy and anti-social, I only wanted to keep to myself. Then I was introduced to Project K. It was a 14-month programme for students that needed a boost in life. Over the Wilderness and Community Challenge Project K helped me to build self-confidence and my social skills. After that we were paired up with mentors who were supposed see their mentees once a fortnight to keep us on track. My mentor left which made me feel like my life was going to be how it was in the start. No one helping me or, at least, checking on me.

But then Tony stepped up and told me he was going to be my mentor. He saw me once a week in and out of school. Always made sure I was on track with my school work and kept me out of trouble. Tony believed in me like no one else did and because of him I stayed in school, went to University and have a full-time job as an arborist. One day I plan to be a mentor.

The person I used to be is in the past. The mischief, the bad man. I’ve looked further into the future to where I want to be and who I’m going to be. I will travel around the world and climb all sorts of trees in all sorts of weather; snow, rain, storm, whatever. The place where I will to take a deep breath in is Canada. Climbing a Cedar tree in the snow at the top of the mountains, looking over a crystal blue lake as the sun reaches its zenith. That is when I know I will feel complete.

To those that can be, become a mentor, your reward will be that you have changed someone’s life. That mentee you just helped could’ve been on the streets being a hooligan or in jail. Instead they looked at another path, sitting on the mountains in Canada drinking a beer with me.

Sarah’s story

I am a Project K graduate. I am based in New Zealand and was lucky enough to be given an opportunity to take part in the programme through my college. Prior to Project K I had a lot going on at home and school. I relocated from my hometown of Auckland to Tauranga, away from my family and friends, and had to start all over again, which was huge, especially at the age of 13. I had considered suicide and become friends with people who were drug users, and ended up in some really bad crowds, as this is the only way I could see myself coping at that stage in my life. I had minimal support, and no one to turn to for advice. 

Read more

My self-confidence was at an all time low, and was also given diagnoses of anxiety and depression. I was mentally unwell, and would have panic attacks on a regular basis. I was living with my mum during this time, who didn’t believe in medication at such a young age, so this is something that I struggled with on a daily basis. I was then chosen to enter into the Project K programme. I was hesitant at first and didn’t understand how a programme can turn my life arund, and pull me out of the hole I had dug. I participated in full Project K programme from the start to the end with no regrets.Without Project K, my substance abuse would have continued and grown, alongside my lack of support, I would have continued to have suicidal thoughts and never would have learnt how to cope from using a holistic approach.

After the programme ended, my self confidence had grown, I was truly happy with the person I had become. I no longer had suicidal thoughts, and created relationships with my peers for life. I not only received support, but also was given an opportunity to support others, which contributed towards myself gaining a sense of belonging. I managed to complete the grades I needed in school, and went on to complete a certificate at my local Polytechnic. I was able to gain employment and work within my community. I gave birth to my daughter at the age of 18. The only way I was able to cope was using the life skills I had been taught through project K, while the stigma remains in place around teen parents, I had learnt how to ignore the negativity to keep my self esteem high and feel proud of the achievements. I had the strength to stay away from using any recreational drugs and continue to follow the career path I wished to by setting goals, and using the previous supports gained to do so. I was employed by a mental health agency at the age of 19, and am currently working towards my degree in psychology, as well as raising my 3 year old on my own.

My experience in mental health has helped me gain insight into skills that are lacking within our children and adolescence, as the majority of the
clients I work with are aged 11-19. Depression and self-harm within our children and adolescence are high, with children as young as 11 will discuss how they wish to commit suicide and will in detail describe how they wish to do. This is a heartbreaking thing to witness, and as a parent, I would wish my child to have the opportunity to participate in a programme that has proved to be so beneficial for all the children who have participated. From a mental health perspective, children would benefit hugely from been given an opportunity to participate in such an amazing programme, and would be crucial in reducing the suicide and self-harm rates within
our children and adolescence.