Puāwai – Supporting young people to thrive

Christchurch-based Puāwai youth leadership programme
Issue date:
Learning and developing
Accepted, respected, and connected
Involved and empowered

Puāwai means to blossom, and blossoming is exactly what has happened for the rangatahi who have completed the Christchurch-based Puāwai youth leadership programme, delivered by Leadership Lab. The Puāwai programme works alongside young people from Māori, Pasifika, rainbow, disability, care-experienced, and cross-cultural (including Filipino and Bhutanese) communities.

Puāwai is one of three programmes that make up LinC, the Leaders in Community project established in the aftermath of the 2011 Christchurch earthquake. Puāwai was developed specifically for rangatahi aged 15 to 18 years who show potential as leaders but who may be overlooked by their schools for development opportunities because they come from marginalised communities.

"Many of the young people are initially cautious when they first come together. But over time, they really grow in confidence because it's a safe space for them to discuss their identity and spend time with others like them," says Tayla Taylor – Puāwai Project Lead.

In addition to activating skills and confidence, Puāwai focuses on diversity and inclusion, weaving connections and belonging. Puāwai participants work in rōpu (small groups), first as individual rōpu, then at monthly hui attended by all rōpu, and finally through a series of ‘activator’ events such as facilitating a public event or organising a service opportunity.

Several rangatahi from the first two Puāwai programmes are now working as junior tuākana (mentors) for the 2022 intake. They are supporting more senior tuākana to deliver the nine-month programme to another 60 rangatahi. Others have become even more deeply involved in their own communities.

“One of the most positive outcomes has been seeing our 12 awesome tuākana who are in their early 20’s and come from the various communities that we focus on in Puāwai. Their development is a huge impact of Puāwai as this is likely to support them into years of future mahi and contribution to their communities. They also provide credible role models for the rangatahi,” says Chris Jansen – Leadership Lab Co-Director.

He is also keen to ensure that the Puāwai facilitation team, kaiawhina, and steering group receive the recognition they deserve, as this mahi is only possible due to their deep commitment to ensuring this very dynamic and complex programme is a success.

“We are also very grateful to the Todd Foundation, J R McKenzie Trust, and the Ministry of Youth Development for their generous support over three years. The enthusiasm of our funders, who have been very keen to resource this mahi as they believe in the kaupapa, has helped us enormously,” says Chris.

While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to present challenges both in terms of programme delivery and the wellbeing of young people, it’s clear that Puāwai is making a positive difference to young people.

Check out the two inspiring videos below to hear their voices.


This story is courtesy of Leadership Lab and JR McKenzie Trust, who support this project.