Voice for youth to get on right track

North Waikato News - - News - By FRANCES FER­GU­SON

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.

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