Teen Brylee Comer used to be so shy, even ordering food from a restaurant was daunting.
“I couldn’t go up and talk to strangers and the idea of public speaking was my worst nightmare. My shyness was affecting my day-to-day life.”
Now, the teen is a changed person.
Comer, 18, is looking forward to studying a Bachelor of Business in Wellington, runs the Gay Straight Alliance at her school, and even recently emceed an event in front of hundreds of people.
“I’ve completely come out of my shell and realised I can do anything I put my mind to.”
Comer has realised her full potential with the help of a charity that aims to transform young lives through a range of activities and mentoring—the Graeme Dingle Foundation Bay of Plenty.
The charity has one motto: we want every child to know what they have inside is greater than any obstacle.
Project K Builds Confidence
Comer took part in the 14-month Project K programme when she was 14. Designed for Year 10’s, the three-stage programme builds confidence and teaches life skills through a wilderness adventure, a community challenge and an individual mentoring partnership with a trained mentor.
“During the wilderness challenge I spent 18 days in the bush with 11 other students. We started with a 3-day base camp doing trust-building activities, then went up the Pinnacles tramping, kayaked up the coast for 3 days, then biked the Thames to Waihi for 4 days.”
“Since you’re in the bush, there’s no proper toilets or showers, no mirrors. It’s almost like you are at your worst, but you’re surrounded by all these people, getting to know them, and they still like you. It really broke me out of my shell and made me realise how much I love being in nature.”
The project also gave the Mount Maunganui College student the chance to give back to the community by holding a car wash fundraiser for Homes of Hope and the Cancer Foundation.
“We raised hundreds of dollars that we got to give back to the community. We even got to see one of the homes and families we had donated to which was really nice. The community challenge founded my love of volunteering—I really enjoy giving back. And now I volunteer regularly.”
Next came the mentoring.
“My mentor Naomi helped me with so much over the 12 months. We made goals together and we worked towards them. She has a little business and I had a candle-making business, so she helped me with that. She also helped me with my goal to learn the guitar. It’s so nice to have an adult best friend; it’s someone who’s almost like a parent figure but you can share more with in a way. We still keep in touch now.”
Project K has given Brylee a new sense of self confidence, and a role as a leader in her community.
“I facilitate different youth groups and have more leadership roles in different aspects of my life. The thought of getting up and leading something was not even possible before, and now I’m taking the lead every day, I’m taking the lead in my life.”
TECT Funding Helps Reach Thousands of Youth
After securing TECT funding of $210,000 over two years, the Graeme Dingle Foundation Bay of Plenty is able to reach thousands of youth through 3 of their dedicated programmes.
Project K is one of these programmes, reaching 24 at-risk youth per year. The Kiwi Can primary school programme reaches over 3,100 kids with weekly classes that teach and build resilience, raise self-esteem and gives students the tools for life to make positive choices. The Stars programme reaches over 500 Year 9 students with peer mentoring from Year 12 and 13 students; helping students settle into their new school environment while providing senior students leadership opportunities.
Dan Allen-Gordon, Regional Manager at Graeme Dingle Foundation Bay of Plenty, says they are grateful for TECT’s support of the programmes.
“We are able to reach so many youth thanks to TECT’s funding; helping to build confidence, teach life skills, promote good health and encourage a positive attitude. It all goes a long way to shaping the adults they become, and we couldn’t do it without TECT’s support.”
To learn more about the Graeme Dingle Foundation, visit https://dinglefoundation.org.nz/