Skills crisis: Work hard to come by for reformed bad boy

By Simon Collins

Levi Hohua hopes to go to Laidlaw Bible College as a first step to becoming a youth worker. Photo / Steven McNicholl
Levi Hohua hopes to go to Laidlaw Bible College as a first step to becoming a youth worker. Photo / Steven McNicholl

Even the star appeal of legendary All Black Michael Jones could not get Levi Hohua a job in sport.

Mr Hohua, 18, was kicked out of Kelston Boys High School in year 11 "because I kept getting into fights, wagging and just being a really bad person".

His father died when he was a baby and his mother moved around.

"We were just moving constantly all around the place," he says. "I was on the streets for almost a year. For a year before that I was at home but I wasn't going to school, I was just hanging out on the streets every day drinking, smoking weed and all that rubbish."

He was found guilty of three aggravated robberies which he says were actually committed by a friend.

"So I got kicked out of home as well because the cops kept coming over and the landlord was saying, 'You'd better go'. So I was back on the streets and was arrested for breaching my bail because I was living on the streets."

He was sent to a boys' home called the Lighthouse run by the Youth Horizons Trust. His social worker got him into the Village Sports Academy founded by Michael Jones in Avondale.

"I'm a big fan of sports," he says. "It was a six-month course that started half-way through last year, so I did it. It was good, it was fun."

But when he went back at the start of this year, he decided it was no longer what he wanted.

"It was like, what kind of job would I be getting out of this?" he says. "I would have gone to university or teachers college and become a PE teacher, just teaching people how to throw a rugby ball."

His life changed when he started hanging around Zeal, a youth centre in the council complex which houses the West Wave aquatic centre in Henderson. Zeal manager Matt Grey and his wife and children took Mr Hohua into their home.

"I just became a whole different person that day. I smelt fresh air," he says.

He became a Christian and now plans to go to Laidlaw Bible College next year as a first step to becoming a youth worker. He teaches boxing with Mr Grey at Zeal and has started a worship band.

"I have learnt so much in one year that would take someone two years," he says. "I've been told school is meant for one type of student, it's not meant for everyone. The teachers would only worry about the kids at the front of the class."

He is now desperate to get a job but can't find one. "I have so much to give but no one will take me."

To find out more about Zeal call (09) 835 4570.

The series

Monday: Our mismatched skills
Yesterday: Vocational pathways
Today: Industry training
Tomorrow: Second-chance education
Friday: Tertiary education.

- NZ Herald

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