Voice for youth to get on right track
Turning his back on a lifestyle of crime has opened up a world of opportunities for a Huntly teenager.
Seventeen year old Anaru Wehi is the youngest member of the Huntly in Action group, representing and giving a voice to the youth of the community.
Giving up his gang colours, Anaru has made many positive changes in his life.
Witnessing his brothers in gangs, Anaru once thought it was okay to be a ‘‘hard out thug’’.
‘‘(But) Dealing with the police, being in the cells changed my whole mentality.
‘‘My brother went to jail (and) he said to me: ‘You come to jail, I’m gonna beat you up’’. ‘‘It kind of changed my whole life. ‘‘My Nan said she was really proud of me. She wanted me to go hard and succeed and be successful. Not to be a little criminal.’’
Strong role models have encouraged, inspired and motivated Anaru to make the transition from budding criminal to youth leader.
Tapping into his rhythmic talents music teacher, teacher Reti Hedley from Huntly College pushed Anaru to keep achieving.
‘‘Maatua Reti made me boost my level in music. I’ve got a passion for music. It was him saying, ‘ hey bro I can hook you up. I’ve got the kit, I’ve got the resources, I’ve got the beats – all you’ve got to do is come in, listen to the beats, write your song, lay it down’.
‘‘He had everything set up for me. That gave me the courage to know this fella’s gonna help me out,’’ said Anaru.
Helping youth make a connection to what they are good at is what Anaru believes young people like him need to help tackle youth problems in the town.
‘‘There’s already stuff out there but it’s just getting them there, you know. A ride. Encouraging them. Just pushing them into it. I know a lot of my mates out there have a passion for graffiti art. A lot of them are wasting their talent by tagging around town when they can get approval from the council and police to actually graff something.’’
After attending a community
in October, to come up with solutions to deal with the town’s increasing crime rate, Anaru put his hand up.
‘‘I thought it was my opportunity to get up and say something. The point of Huntly in Action group is to get Huntly into action.
‘‘Our main objective is to empower all, strengthen and unite our community.’’
Stepping up to be a mentor for young people is giving youth a voice at the group’s weekly meetings.
Anaru believes the key to engaging youth is to connect them to the right people who can support them, saying it’s a ‘‘50, 50 exchange’’.
His message to youth is ‘‘go hard. They say give one hundred per cent but I say give one hundred and ten per cent and just that little extra always helps.’’
Anaru doesn’t deny he has a colourful past. He carries in his pocket a character reference written by principal Tim Foy of Huntly College. It reminds him of how far he has come and he is proud of his achievements.
Anaru will start his apprenticeship in the new year as a diesel mechanic.
HAPPY PLACE: Anaru Wehi, 17, uses his musical talents performing with his band Record 83 and underground hip hop crew, Paper Chaser Recordz. Several of his songs have been aired on Radio Tainui and Cruz FM.