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Catch ups with our Kūmara

One of Awarua's most precious taonga is our awesome Sam who runs the Supported Bail and Tahuri Atu (About Face) programme.

18 years ago Whaea Trish who was the original Kaihautū of Awarua approached Sam and asked if he wanted to take on these contracts supporting youth. Back then, supported bail was a pilot programme which meant that it was in the first stages of development. Sam thought "sweet, I can do what I want" and away he went to create the programme.

Sam believes that you have to "love the mahi and do it with passion". That could be the key to Sam's success over the many years he has worked with our rangatahi.

One of Sam's favourite stories was circus boy.

Sam had been referred a young man ("CJ") to his supported bail programme (he was a high-end offender). When Sam went around to first meet CJ, he refused and said to his Mum "I don't want to work with any more goody goods" (referring to lawyers, courts and police). After some convincing by his mother, CJ walked out covered in bandages from when the police dogs had to restrain him.

After introductions, Sam said to him "how would you like to get rid of all those goody goods?"

CJ replied, "Can you get rid of the curfew?"

Sam said, "I'm good, but not that good" and their relationship began.

Since CJ's offending was in Bluff, part of is FGC (Family Group Conference) plan was to make something to give back to the Bluff community. Sam and CJ drove down to Bluff to collect items from the seashore. They came back to the Sam's workshop where CJ made a photo frame with various pieces of wood, shells and rocks.

For the first time, CJ felt like he had accomplished something. During this activity Sam and CJ had a yarn around what he liked and enjoyed doing. CJ said he had played a bit of rugby but said to Sam he doesn't actually like rugby, yet he felt there was an expectation to since his Dad had played at a high level. Sam asked him "Well, what do you want to do then?"

"I want to join the Circus!" said CJ.

Sam and CJ worked on numerous projects while he went through the court systems. CJ got a part-time job with his grandad which Sam would pick him up and drop him off at. One day CJ ran to Sam's car saying "Sam Sam! The circus is in town!"

A circus lady on the German wheel

Sam managed to see the circus manger and asked if CJ could do some mahi with them. Sure enough, CJ went to help set up the tents the following week in town.

CJ's dream was to do the German wheel at the circus and somehow managed to get his uncle to help make him one. Sam remembers going to see CJ and there he was tumbling and turning around in his backyard on his homemade German wheel.

CJ ended up being a great worker and Sam would take him to help the circus in Gore, Invercargill and Dunedin! The circus manager rang and asked if CJ wanted to go up north to help in the circus. After some convincing to his parents, it was decided that he had to do his last day in court down here and if that went ok he would be allowed to go up. The judge had heard about what CJ was getting up to and saw that he had completed everything on his plan. The judge said to him "so where are you going?" to which CJ replied, "I'm going to join the circus".

CJ ended up traveling with the circus around New Zealand and Australia for many years. He then found a partner and has settled down on a farm up north. Sam actually bumped into CJ one year travelling down Gala Street on a uni cycle.

Sam's mahi is the last ditch effort to prevent youth going further into the justice system. He likes to keep them busy by doing things they wouldn't get a chance to do and aims to make them feel a sense of accomplishment. Sam engages rangatahi through activities like fishing/whitebaiting, bone, wood and stone carving. During these activities, Sam has good conversations about their dreams and what they want to do. He will support them in anyway to make those dreams a reality. Sam's firm but fair approach to restorative practices embodies a strength-based theory that is youth lead.

Awarua calls Sam our "kūmara", because he will never tell people how sweet he really is.

Sam also tells his rangatahi that his door is always open, whether you want a cup of tea, a bit of advice or a laugh.

This story is just one of the many success stories Sam has been involved with. We are so so lucky to have Sam here supporting our rangatahi as they navigate one of the hardest periods of their lives. So ngā mihi Sam for all the mahi you do and we look forward to hearing more of these stories in the future.

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