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At first glance, 15-year-old Lewis wouldn't rate a glance. Head down, face shrouded in hair, he has made himself invisible.

As it turned out, that was his protection against bullies at school. Lewis was so terrified he hid in the toilets each day. The school didn't help - they thought he was wagging and expelled him.

It's a familiar sad story, one which seems almost without hope. But there are people trying to help kids like Lewis, one of 12 teenage Maori boys taking part in The Outsiders (TV One, last night), a three-week tough-love programme trying to wean them off the futile quartet of drugs, alcohol, cigs and crime and open their minds to a brighter future.

All 12 had been expelled from school, and all had what a counsellor described as a "limited repertoire of roles they've been exposed to". Meaning positive adult role models.

The lads were whisked off to a remote camp, and asked to give up their cigs and drugs. One clever clogs, Te Pou, hid his stash.

As the counsellors introduced the kids to such foreign concepts as abseiling and tramps through wild bush, it was apparent their fitness was on a par with that of obese old men.

Predictable group dynamics started to emerge, with Te Pou trying to dominate and some kids irritated by Shavay, a boy who had no confidence in the bush but was an Olympic-level moaner.

What was chilling was how these boys thought stealing was natural behaviour.

One of them, Jarred, spoke matter-of-factly about targeting Asians for bagsnatching, while Teri-Wu had an eye for weedeaters while out burgling.

You had to admire the team guiding them - or trying to - towards an alternative path as they headed to Waiheke Island for the next round, although Te Pou was at boiling point, having snatched a fag or three on the way through Auckland. I do hope it works for them. With 1600 kids expelled from school each year, this is indeed New Zealand's dirty little secret - one we all wear in terms of consequences.

I've seen more than enough stuffed-up teenagers, thanks also to Brat Camp (TV2, Thursdays). Last week's mother-daughter warfare featured snotty 14-year-old Chloe who was her mother Helen's constant nightmare. Helen dragged Chloe over to Arizona for a camp based on Native Indian teachings and left her there. Chloe carried on as teenagers do - the world revolved around her and everyone was the enemy.

Chloe's psychological worship of cigs, drugs and alcohol took a long time to break down and she proved a lying little manipulator. So Helen made her do it for 56 days all up. As Chloe put it, it made her do too much thinking, something the drugs, cigs and booze had blocked out for years.

Then she discovered she felt great without them and she loved her mummy. Maybe the boys from south Auckland will discover this as well and turn away from the crush of peer pressure in the real world. Or else they're heading for a tougher camp called jail. The Outsiders offers, fingers crossed, some cautious optimism.