A young Whanganui woman has been inspired to join the Air Force after attending a youth camp run by the Ministry of Social Development's Youth Services.
Thirteen Whanganui youth were selected to attend the three-day camp as part of New Zealand's Youth Week on May 12-14. It was the first time the Whanganui-based Youth Services has run the camp and, due to its success, there are plans to run another.
The event brought together a range of community providers to teach rangatahi about leadership, teamwork, and building resilience and self-confidence.
"It's a chance for the rangatahi we work with to have different experiences and hear from a range of services about what they have to offer, as well as developing them as individuals," Youth Services team leader Marlene Whetton said.
The camp took place at the YMCA Camp Raukawa near Whanganui.
The providers attending the camp included Sport Whanganui, RNZAF, SUPPS, Whanganui District Health Board and Whanganui District Council Youth Committee representatives, along with Y Central staff.
Outdoor activities were tailored to challenge the rangatahi mentally and physically and to develop leadership skills and team interaction. They consisted of negotiating high ropes, boxing sessions, a "leap of faith" (jumping from a very high pole while being supported by their team), rock climbing and abseiling.
During the indoor programme, the services outlined what they provide for rangatahi, their locations, contact details and other valuable information.
"These workshops were very informative and helpful, and the young people engaged in a positive manner by asking some pressing but important questions in relation to their safety and wellbeing," Whetton said.
The RNZAF visit was a huge success and the landing of the NH90 helicopter was well received, with an exercise provided by Air Force personnel bringing out leadership potential and encouraging team-building, Whetton said.
"The event enabled us as youth workers an opportunity to understand and engage with rangatahi on a personal level so we can better support them on their journey to adulthood," she said.
"Rangatahi were also able to connect with their peers and learn about organisations in the community that provide services to youth."
Feedback was positive and indicated the benefits of the camp – some said they wanted to stay longer, while one young woman was so inspired by the presence of the RNZAF team that she has now decided to join the Air Force.
"Young people are more resilient than we think, and they have so much more potential than we expect," Whetton said.
"Providing opportunities like this expands what is available to them.
"We very much appreciate the effort the providers and the youth put into making this such a successful camp and celebration of how 'We are Stronger Together'."