Some­thing to con­trib­ute

Central Leader - - Front Page - By Janie Smith

A SHORT text mes­sage from a par­ent was all it took to make tru­ancy of­fi­cer Hale Vaihu’s Christ­mas.

It was just a cou­ple of lines thank­ing him for get­ting the par­ent’s daugh­ter back into school, but it was his favourite gift.

“It re­ally made my Christ­mas. I feel like I have ac­com­plished some­thing in the job,” says Mr Vaihu.

“If I can save one kid, I’ve done well. I don’t aim to save the world.”

The teen was suf­fer­ing from anx­i­ety and de­pres­sion and af­ter go­ing to school part-time she found it dif­fi­cult to get back into it full­time.

Her par­ents called Mt Roskill-based Auck­land City Tru­ant and Al­ter­na­tive Ed­u­ca­tion Ser­vices, which sent Mr Vaihu to help.

“He en­cour­aged her

to make the right choice, for her­self, for her fu­ture and for her fam­ily,” says the girl’s mother.

Mr Vaihu has been a tru­ancy of­fi­cer for two years. He came to the role by chance af­ter be­ing asked to get in­volved with a stu­dent try­ing to en­rol in schools af­ter be­ing ex­pelled.

The school that ac­cepted the boy asked Mr Vaihu to help him stay on track and he suc­cess­fully en­cour- aged the stu­dent to stay in school.

Af­ter that he was of­fered a job as a tru­ancy of­fi­cer.

“I feel I have some­thing to con­trib­ute,” he says.

And the sense of achieve­ment he gets from en­cour­ag­ing a stu­dent to go back to their stud­ies keeps him in the role. “I love it.” Mr Vaihu de­scribes his own back­ground as the “uni­ver­sity of hard knocks” and he strug­gled through two years of New Zealand school­ing as a Ton­gan young­ster with lim­ited English.

He tries to ap­proach tru­ant stu­dents in a way they can re­late to him, al­though there are times when he is un­suc­cess­ful and the po­lice have to step in to deal with a stu­dent.

Auck­land City Tru­ant and Al­ter­na­tive Ed­u­ca­tion Ser­vices has three full­time and four part-time of­fi­cers, all of whom wear vests and carry iden­ti­fi­ca­tion when out on the street.

Man­ager Karyl Puk­lowski says the ser­vice mainly gets re­fer­rals from schools, but com­mu­nity groups and in­di­vid­u­als can also con­tact it.

Of­fi­cers won’t pick up the kids, but they will find out what school they are from and where they are sup­posed to be, she says.

To con­tact the ser­vice, phone 620-5220.

Photo: JA­SON OX­EN­HAM

True call­ing: Tru­ancy of­fi­cer Hale Vaihu en­joys help­ing youngsters get back into school.

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