Twenty years old and already having faced a lot of adversity, Daniel McGregor-Brimble has turned a corner over the last few years, this week winning a Prime Minister's Oranga Tamariki Award.
The awards celebrate the success of young people who have grown up in or experienced the care and protection system and include an engraved tohu or trophy, a taonga made from pounamu, merchandise from sponsors and gift cards that can be used to purchase new technology and clothes.
Daniel, of Ngati Raukawa, has been awarded the William Wallace Te Iho Pūmanawa – Whakamana Tangata award which recognises a young person who has demonstrated an outstanding contribution to their whānau, community, church or school, or has acted in a way that has inspired others through their language and culture to make a positive change in their own life or the lives of others.
"I'm still shocked," Daniel said.
"When my social worker Rueben Batten told me I had won the award I was just speechless.
"I've had nothing like this before."
Although proudly saying he has met the Prime Minister before, winning the award is a new experience for Daniel.
Growing up in Whanganui, Daniel experienced many hardships in the early years of his life.
A move down to Wellington, now living in Ōtaki, has enabled Daniel to turn his life around.
"We have experienced some bad things, and bad things happened to us when we were younger.
"I moved to Wellington, encouraged by one of my brothers, to have a change and do something with my life.
"Staying in Whanganui - nothing was going to change for me.
"When I moved here everything changed.
"I started a carving course at Te Wāngana o Raukawa in Ōtaki."
Completing his first year this year, Daniel is keen to complete the next two years and eventually become a master carver.
Uploading photos of some of his creations on to Facebook, Daniel was able to share his creations with family members.
"When I finished all my carvings I uploaded them to Facebook and all my cousins and aunties and uncles all commented saying they were really proud of me.
"My mum can tell that I've come a long way from where I was when I was in Whanganui.
"Now, she's proud of us for making the change and moving here."
Nominated by his social worker Rueben Batten who works with him on a Transition Support Service contract through Oranga Tamariki, Rueben said, "Of all the young people I work with, he was the one that stood out.
"He saw opportunities and wanted to grab them not just coast and wait for a handout.
"He really wanted to go further, and I guess I was that link to be able to see his potential."
Having previously studied at Te Wānanga himself, Rueben was able to help connect Daniel with the right people there.
"Seeing him nine months ago when I started with him, to where he is now has been awesome."
Daniel is looking forward to moving into a new home with his younger brother soon and dreams of going around the country visiting different marae and speaking with carvers at each place.
He is the only one of the younger generation in his family who is carving.
"That's why my koro is so happy with me and proud of me, I'm doing something he is proud of.
"Before the course, I didn't know how to carve, but the tutors showed me how to use the chisels and taught me all the patterns and everything.
"I've got two more years of the course left, then I want to be a master carver like one of my uncles."