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START Taranaki builds strong bonds

START Taranaki is a Kaponga based community organisation committed to the success of Taranaki young people. Established in 2003 by Neville Phillips, START Taranaki CEO, it provides a powerful youth programme, delivering learning experiences and opportunities to young men through spending time in the natural environment, work experience placements and learning basic life skills from different role models in the community.

In November 2016, with support from the TSB Community Trust, the organisation launched START Early; a year-long pilot programme, aimed at building trust, resilience, self-awareness and life skills to participants through meaningful activity.

START Early starts with an isolation phase, involving two full weeks in the bush and a two-night solo period. Other activities foster openness between participants, staff and whanau, creating supportive relationships and bonds to serve them throughout the year ahead and beyond.

Co-ordinated by Project Manager Piers Duncan, START Early is backed by a strong team of staff - all bring a varied range of skills, qualities and experience to their work and are instrumental to its success.

Recently a graduation was held for the first phase of the programme. Neville says, “The attachments formed through trust and mutual respect between young people and staff were powerful and obvious on graduation day” and “the on-going transition over the summer will cement those relationships and help the young people to remain focussed on what they have learned about themselves and their capabilities.”

At the event Piers commended its six youth participants, saying “Everyone has done incredibly well, embracing each opportunity with enthusiasm, youthful spirit and an ability to take all the intended learning out of the experience, far surpassing our expectations. They all displayed the physical ability, mental toughness and strength of character to move forward confidently and successfully in life and find positive resolution in any situation”.

The programme has resulted in learnings, not only for the participants, but for the organisation that will ensure START can continuously improve and evolve.

Te Aroha Hohaia, a Trustee of TSB Community Trust who attended the graduation, said she was “deeply moved by the bonds the young men formed with their mentors and key workers”, noting what especially stood out was that the youth had made their own choices to be there.

The work of START is possible thanks to the support and combined efforts of the community. Piers also said that “TSB Community Trust’s focus on achieving positive community outcomes is a great fit for START”, saying that “this programme has provided positive outcomes for youth with reach that will surpass the scope of this project alone, as the learning will travel through our whole practice”.

Following phase one of START early, the START Team will be available to the participants, not only to celebrate future success but equally in tough times. Said Piers “the measure of success is not never making a mistake but one’s ability to respond and learn from where we have gone wrong”. To that end START will continue to support young people long-term.