Raising her son by herself for the last nine years of his 10-year life Melissa Hurcomb has welcomed with open arms the support from Kāpiti's Challenge for Change programme, which recently celebrated the 12-month mentoring journey of nine young people.

Levi Hurcomb has been raised by his mum with support from aunties and other female figures with no father figure or male role models in his life.

A year ago Melissa was contacted by the principal at Ōtaki School, which Levi attends, asking if she would be interested in Levi participating in the Challenge for Change programme.

"It's just the two of us and has been just the two of us for nine years now," Melissa said.

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"We just felt like Levi needed a male figure in his life and thought this would be perfect."

Levi and Melissa Hurcomb. Photo / Rosalie Willis
Levi and Melissa Hurcomb. Photo / Rosalie Willis

Challenge for Change is an early intervention programme aimed at 9–13-year-olds, providing support to the young person and their family.

It aims to improve their ability to reach their potential and lead fulfilling, productive lives and includes challenges, fun group activities, and quality time with mentors on a weekly basis along with a parenting course for parents.

"These activities have helped participants build their confidence and increase resilience," said Challenge for Change Kāpiti coordinator Beatrice Fisher.

"The programme is for those who need a little extra support.

"We act as the fence at the top of the cliff."

Mentors go through "rigorous" training and are carefully paired up with a young person, Beatrice said.

Deciding to sign up for the programme as a mentor after hearing about it through Kāpiti Impact Trust, Peter Jackson was paired with Levi.

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"When I grew up, looking back, I had my parents' friends support and encourage me, as well as having an uncle who took me fishing, hunting and spent time with me," Peter said.

"They are not only great experiences but memories I look back on with appreciation."

Peter Jackson and Levi Hurcomb completing a challenge together.
Peter Jackson and Levi Hurcomb completing a challenge together.

"Peter couldn't have been a better person for Levi," Melissa said.

"They matched them up brilliantly.

"As soon as they sat down at the table that first night, they just clicked straight away.

"He's just got the patience, he's always easy to approach, and welcomed Levi into his family, which has been massive for us.

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"We feel like Peter's become part of our family as well, we've become quite close.

"Peter and his family are so lovely, and he was perfectly matched with Levi."

The 12-month programme includes weekly catch-ups for the first six months along with group activity days where the young people and mentors join with others on the programme.

Activities included an Amazing Race, an overnight stay at a marae, bike rides and trips to the pool.

"Being paired with Levi was a great opportunity to spend time with Levi doing 'boys' things - biking, playing tennis, tramping, walks on the beach and so on," Peter said.

"These were opportunities to talk about the importance of relationships and give Levi time to share what he was going through, to talk about and understand what makes a good relationship and what type of person you need to be in that relationship."

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Levi enjoyed the activities, especially the bike rides, and having someone to talk to.

"I really enjoyed the bike rides," Levi said.

"And running across the inflatables at the pool."

As he went through the programme Levi's confidence increased.

"He has a lot more confidence now - everyone's mentioned that about Levi," Melissa said.

"He now gives everything a go and is happier.

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"It's amazing seeing him grow.

"It was almost instant, as soon as he started the programme he gained more confidence.

"It's great for him to have a male to talk to."

Both Peter and Levi say that they have gained a great friendship from the programme and are hoping to continue contact going forward.

"Along with gaining a friendship, the feeling of making a difference in someone's life is humbling," Peter said.

The programme is funded by council through their social investment programme, lotteries, grants, fundraising and is coordinated through Kāpiti Impact Trust.

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New mentors are always welcomed, for more information visit www.challengeforchange.nz or email c4c.info@kit.org.nz.

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