Real lives, real difference

Michael’s Turn Around

Can you imagine arriving in New Zealand at a young age without your parents, knowing very little English and being thrown into the deep end in a school where you know no one?

This was Michael Khuwattansenee’s reality when he left Thailand to come and live with his Grandfather here in New Zealand.

For months Michael struggled to communicate – people laughed when he tried to speak, and the other kids just didn’t understand him. Making friends was impossible when he was still trying to learn the language, and his schoolwork suffered too.

Every day he lost confidence. Finding solace in computer games, Michael withdrew, isolating himself from the world around him.

When his mother arrived in the country two years later, she saw worrying changes in her son. She barely recognised him. It was clear that the move to New Zealand had taken its toll on Michael and that he needed something to turn things around and help him find his voice again.

That something was to come in 2010, when Michael was introduced to the Project K programme.

The prospect of a few days off from school felt like a huge relief – and with the added appeal of the outdoor activities included in the programme, Michael knew straight away that he wanted to be a part of Project K.

Although it took a short while to settle in, Michael’s confidence grew with every day of the programme. The activities built Michael’s communication skills, he started to make friends, and realised there were people here in New Zealand who cared about him. He says“you realise that all you need is a few people to believe in you – that’s what makes the difference.”

Anna Kingston, Michael’s Project K mentor, is one of those people – and Michael credits her as being one of the greatest influences in his life.

Throughout their mentor-mentee friendship Anna helped Michael in many ways, and they’re still in contact now, 10 years later.

After Project K, Michael’s attitude was completely transformed. He no longer wanted to spend all his time playing video games, and instead set himself a goal to get into the University of Auckland.

He knew it would take a lot to go from failing classes to succeeding at the level required to make it happen, but with his newfound confidence he knew he could do it.

He worked hard with his new friends. He studied before school, after school, during school holidays, and soon became top of his class in economics. And ultimately, he did go on to the University of Auckland, completing a degree in Accounting and Finance.

Since then, Michael has gone on to achieve many things in life, and to this day he credits Anna and Project K. They enabled him to find himself and find his voice here in Aotearoa and for that he is extremely grateful.  Michael has now signed up to be a Project K mentor and hopes to help someone like Anna did for him.

If you’d like the opportunity to make an impact on someone’s life, just like Anna and the Project K programme did, join the team as a mentor today. For more information, click here

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