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Saying no to violence

By Jake Beleski

[email protected]

From gang member to community leader, Wayne Poutoa’s story is proof there are ways out of a life of violence.

Growing up he had stints with both the King Cobras and the Mongrel Mob, and has several jail terms to his name.

But Mr Poutoa is now a respected member of the community who has led powerful changes in the last seven years in youth work and community development.

He turned his life around while in prison, after seeing people leaving only to come back, and eventually realising that it’s a dead end.

He now has a degree in social work, and has received several awards for his community work including the Vodafone World of Difference award and a Kiwibank Local Hero medal.

Five months ago he moved to Carterton as part of a youth guarantee for tertiary provider Te Wananga o Aotearoa, and is now a pastor for the Carterton Baptist Church.

He came with a vision and background aimed at working with youths at risk.

Yesterday morning he had organised for ‘It’s Not Ok’ campaign champion, Vic Tamati, to visit the Carterton Baptist Hall and speak to youths from all over Wairarapa.

Mr Poutoa said family had played a significant role in turning his life around.

“Having children and a family definitely changed things for me.

“I got a degree, did all those sorts of things, and it changed my life.”

He said there was no point “beating around the bush”, and that people had to acknowledge Wairarapa was renowned for “violence, suicide and a whole range of things”.

Getting Mr Tamati to come and speak to youths in the area had been on his agenda for a couple of months, and he said many of the target audience would be facing the same problems.

“It’s good to bring someone here to speak to youths early in the cycle when they’re young, to give them an option before they head into their 20s.

“The first part of our strategy is getting Vic here, and the second part will be navigating a real suicide programme.”

It was about bringing proper awareness to the space and working out what could actually be done, he said.

The main objective of yesterday’s session was to show that no matter how bad a person’s situation may be, there were always options.

“There’s another way and there’s always a way out . . . there’s always somebody you can talk to.

“Because I’m staying here I’m just part and parcel of someone you can reach out to and speak to about it.”

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