*John arrived from Tonga when he just was nine years old. Like many families from the Pacific, they moved to Aotearoa New Zealand for greater opportunities. John describes his start in New Zealand as an 'unhappy experience'. He was taken away from his family and pulled into the wrong crowd that led down a path of crime, violence and eventually prison.
“I didn’t really have a good childhood. I was falling out at school and didn’t do very well. I was hanging out with the wrong crowd and lost my way. I became angry and blamed the system my whole life,” he says.
Following his release, John was referred into in the rehab and integration programme, Te Whare Hāpai Tangata. He says the programme helped tackle his past and identify new ways of looking at life.
“The programme prepared me for other ways of thinking. It really changed my mindset. I struggled at first cos I was forced to really look at my problem and think about the consequences before reacting.”
He says the men on the programme had similar challenges - the relationships with either their family, friends, or partner. For John, it was the pressure he felt from family and addressing the cultural differences between living in the Islands and in New Zealand.
“Every day I had family problems. Stuff I didn’t agree with. My upbringing in Tonga is so different to how it is in New Zealand and I had to address that.”
Programme Facilitator Lenny Hura-King says expectations from family and a failure to set boundaries were huge contributing factors to John being in the system. During the programme, they helped him safely navigate cultural factors and set healthy boundaries with those closest to him.
“By setting those boundaries, he was able to live up to his own expectations by discovering more of his authentic self through Te Tuakiri o Te Tangata – a Māori health and wellbeing model,” says Lenny.
John says through the programme he learned to open up and to speak about what was troubling him.
“I was able to share my feelings and have a voice. I finally stood up to certain people in my life who are very close to me. I could say this is who I am, and these are the things I want to achieve with my life.”
Lenny says the 'testament to change' happened at John’s graduation where his parents spoke and acknowledged the major shift they witnessed in their son.
Programme Facilitator James Glass says John challenged himself to grow. He left the programme with the confidence and skills needed to overcome the barriers between him and the future he wants for himself.
“John is a great example of what can happen when you focus on the things within your means and use them to change your situation.”
After completing Te Whare Hāpai Tangata, John returned to share his story and speak to others on the programme. In the future, he hopes to help others who are struggling.
“It’s an opportunity not many people have, it helps you find yourself and look at what the issue is. It’s unconformable at first but it gets better. The programme helped me, so I’m inspired to tell others to give it a good shot.”
*Names have been changed for privacy reasons
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