Close to 70 rangatahi from across the Eastern District proudly crossed the finish line to graduate from the Te Vaka Māia and CACTUS youth programmes in Napier, Flaxmere and Gisborne last month.
The high school students took part in eight-week programmes involving early morning fitness sessions three days a week, building positive relationships, improving their fitness and developing resilience.
Known across the country as the Combined Adolescent Challenge Training Unit (CACTUS) and in Hawke’s Bay as Te Vaka Māia, the students train alongside Police, teachers and local community and iwi groups.
The programme culminates in ‘The Longest Day’ where the students’ physical and mental fitness is put to the ultimate test.
Senior Constable Che Lind was involved in the Flaxmere programme.
“There was a massive improvement in the students’ fitness, but the biggest gains were made in the relationships between Police, the students and the school,” says Snr Const Lind.
“Te Vaka Māia is an awesome way for Police to engage in a positive way with the Flaxmere students, their whanau and the wider community.”
Meanwhile, in Gisborne one of the lead instructors was Kayla Tane, who was a graduate from the first CACTUS ever held in Tairāwhiti more than a decade ago.
Senior Constable Rangi Kingi was also involved in the Gisborne programme.
“Over the eight-week programme the rangatahi learnt what it meant to work individually and as a team, all identifying resilience as a key factor,” says Snr Const Kingi.
In Napier, even the local Mayor, Kirsten Wise, joined many of the training sessions.
Sergeant Willie Tran says the programme makes a positive impact in the lives of those who take part.
“The programme ignites a sense of belonging, courage and community trust in the rangatahi taking part, which I believe will have a lasting and positive impact for years to come,” he says.