Life has thrown us a few curveballs this year. But for many children across the region, school closures, social restrictions and family job losses have impacted their wellbeing, with some at risk of lasting psychological distress.
The Graeme Dingle Foundation is helping 3,500 of those children stay resilient, teaching them that what they have inside is greater than any obstacle, even when that obstacle is a global pandemic.
Their programmes use elements of the great outdoors, inspirational classroom leaders and world-class mentors to help kids aged 5 to 18 keep on track, develop confidence, build resilience and self-belief, and set goals for the future.
The three Western Bay programmes support children as they grow up, helping them face any challenges along the way with positivity.
The Kiwi Can primary school programme teaches kids values such as integrity, resilience and respect, the Stars mentoring programme strengthens young people for the tricky transition into high school, and Project K supports at-risk youth in Year 10.
When lockdown commenced, Graeme Dingle Foundation responded immediately with a focus on building resilience by filming lessons and activities and posting them on a dedicated YouTube channel.
Lessons on mental toughness, stress management, and goal setting helped the young people get through the lockdown and stay connected.
Dan Allen-Gordon, Regional Manager at Graeme Dingle Foundation Western Bay of Plenty, says students have bounced back quickly from the lockdown.
"There was a lot of anxiety in both the children and across our team when we first went into lockdown, but our team acknowledged that we had to show resilience to demonstrate to our tamariki and rangatahi and teach them how they could be resilient too.
"The kids came out of lockdown so engaged as we stayed connected throughout. While we have seen some children in tough situations at home, the programmes have been that constant support, ensuring we steer them in the right direction."
Now at Alert Level 2, all the programmes are continuing as usual.
"There is some sense of normality, with kids settling now they are back into their safe, happy space where they can learn and be mentored and supported."
The Foundation applied for funding through the WBOP COVID-19 Recovery Fund to help cover an income shortfall due to several of their regular funders closing applications.
The fund was established by local funders TECT, Acorn Foundation, BayTrust and Tauranga City Council to help key Western Bay of Plenty community groups survive the medium-term impact of Covid-19.
The $30,000 in funding approved will ensure the Project K and Kiwi Can programmes can continue to be delivered until the end of the year.
Dan says the funding will go a long way to helping them continue to achieve great outcomes.
"The Recovery Funding saved us from cutting one of our Project K programmes, as we were at that point where we weren't sure if we could sustain it. It also gives us sustainability in Kiwi Can.
"The effects of the programme are huge – we see kids transform over weeks. It helps to stop bullying, truancy and bad behaviour, and it builds relationships across the whole school. Having our local funders help us achieve these outcomes is fantastic. We are so grateful for the funding – it's ensuring we can keep our children strong during this uncertain time."
BayTrust Chief Executive Alastair Rhodes says the programmes are essential to support youth during this time of heightened stress and anxiety.
"The Graeme Dingle Foundation programmes reach a vast number of youth in our area and are very well received by schools, students and parents.
"With the heightened anxiety around Covid-19 and the lockdowns, it is vital we have the support systems in place to ensure our youth can get through this – that we can keep them on the right paths away from substance abuse, violence and other negative social impacts.
"We're pleased this funding will ensure their dedicated team and mentors can continue to provide tools and hope for our young people."