Jared Dixon understands just how valuable wrap-around support is when trying to make meaningful change in one’s life.
He has been through it himself, with a life that was once filled with drugs, crime and gangs. His escape out was only made possible thanks to Live for More’s Tai Wātea surf therapy programme and the people who supported him to help turn his life around.
The programme consists of weekly surfing sessions, clinical psychology treatment, group work, goal setting, and motivational speakers; helping empower young men who have fallen through the cracks to see that change is possible.
Now, Jared is giving back as a Youth Mentor for the charity, helping other young men find freedom from their past and step into their true potential.
Jared runs the Tai Ora programme, which engages clients with fitness sessions and practical life navigation support while they wait to attend Tai Wātea. The programme was established to provide immediate engagement for clients that were more vulnerable than ever in a post-Coivd-19 environment.
He also co-facilitates the Tai Tautoko programme, a weekly support programme for all past graduates. The programme provides one-on-one support to help graduates stay on track and continue their journey towards their goals, whether that be through clinical sessions or practical help with employment, driver’s licenses and CVs.
Jared’s role is a new one, established due to an increase in demand since the Covid-19 lockdown. He says his work is incredibly important for the 26 young men he supports.
“Our boys often don’t have many positive people around them to help support them. It is important for their continued growth to have some support after Ta Wātea, however, previously we have not been able to provide this support.
“Now I can fulfil this role and be there to help them continue to make those changes towards getting free from their pasts and empowered to live fulfilling lives.”
Jared says it feels good to be giving back after going through the programme himself.
“I’m continuing to learn, both about myself and about the boys. I feel that this is such a great role for me as I can relate well to the boy’s lives, and they find it easier to talk to me.
“I feel really proud of how far I have come and now even prouder to be working with these boys and helping them to reach their goals.
“It is always a highlight to watch the boys grow in confidence and self-belief and amazing to see them grow in their surfing. My most recent highlight was joining the graduates as they performed the haka at their Tai Wātea graduation. Being able to stand and haka with them made me feel so grateful to be a part of their journey.”
Live for More Operations Manager Dave de Graaf says the charity has been re-engaging with clients facing new needs since Covid-19.
“The demand on the Youth Mentor has quickly increased to full capacity as past graduates have realised that there is now support available for them.
“We are also finding that several past graduates had been on the COVID-19 wage subsidy, but are now finding themselves unemployed and looking for work, so we have been able to re-engage with them as well.
“Mental health issues are also becoming more prevalent than before, and while we cannot relate that directly to Covid, we certainly think it has played a part, along with several other factors. The reality is that even with the Youth Mentor on board, we could still do more to help more clients, but we just do not have the resources yet and so will continue to do as much as we can and as we grow, we can address these additional needs.”
Live for More received $30,000 in funding last year through the WBOP COVID-19 Recovery Fund, established by local funders TECT, Acorn Foundation, BayTrust, and Tauranga City Council. The funds have been supporting Jared’s work.
Dave says the funding has been incredibly important to their past graduates’ survival.
“We have had several clients reach out for help in times of desperation, with some wanting to end their own lives. Had we not had the funding and, therefore, the extra support in the Youth Mentor, we would not have had the capacity to engage with them in their times of need.
“We have also been able to meet the increased and varied needs of our clients and offer additional support that they would otherwise not have had available to them.
“We are so grateful for the COVID-19 Recovery Funding and how much it has helped us not only improve our services but also increase our capacity.”