A Masterton youth programme that has reached out to at-risk youth for almost 30 years has been forced to close due to a decrease in external funding.
Masterton Community Church pastor Pete Hampson, who founded the Masterton Street Youth Ministries programme 29 years ago, said it was a difficult but necessary decision to end the programme that has catered for up to 40 Wairarapa boys each week.
"Sadly it's got to a difficult stage now for us as a committee and we've had to close the programme down, because the foreseeable future isn't looking good as far as funding is concerned," he said.
"A lot of the funding agencies are clamming up and there's a lot of change happening so it has become quite difficult.
"We'd like to thank supporters and families for their encouragement over the years and deeply regret the inconvenience caused by the programme closure, especially to the boys who have loved being a part of this."
Mr Hampson said organisations like Lotteries had decreased their funding on a national basis "and that affects us quite a lot".
"We get quite a bit from them, and some other funding agencies as well have cut back. It's just becoming increasingly hard now to keep up that kind of funding especially to pay wages."
Mr Hampson said the Street Youth Ministries Trust was unable to continue paying the salaries of their staff -- Jan Governor and her youth co-ordinator husband Tony -- who had worked for the trust for more than 20 years.
"The Street Youth Ministries Trust was set up to provide activities to build the self-esteem of at-risk kids, so we still want to carry on doing that, but we now have to look at how we go forward with different options," Mr Hampson said.
"The sad thing is Tony and Jan have done such a fantastic job for so long and built so many relationships in the community, and have been great employees, so it's sad that their jobs had to come to an end. It's been quite difficult really."
The youth programme sometimes took the kids on day trips to places like Splash Planet as rewards for improved behaviour. "A lot of the programme was about teaching them that their behaviour reflects rewards, and that it pays to work towards something," Mr Hampson said.
"Our key purpose has been building a programme around kids finding an identity, getting a sense of belonging and finding purpose in their life.
"We have got great stories of kids that have come in and kept in touch over the years, and just that bit of encouragement from us has been enough to help get them back on track.
"That's all it takes, giving a hand up at the right time might be all they need."
Mr Hampson said Street Youth Ministries was now at a "time of transitioning" and would be paying off outstanding obligations before they started looking at a way forward.
"At this stage, we definitely want to continue doing what the trust was set up to do," he said.
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