Building teamwork, resilience and positive relationships with Police

Issue: Volume 99, Number 18

Posted: 5 November 2020
Reference #: 1HADqr

A community programme in Napier is challenging young people to meet their goals, improve their wellbeing, and build positive relationships with Police.

Teamwork with tyres was a regular occurrence during the seven-week training.

Teamwork with tyres was a regular occurrence during the seven-week training.

Seven weeks of early starts is a challenge for even the most motivated, but it was a challenge that students from William Colenso College in Napier were prepared to accept.

The Combined Adolescent Challenge Training Unit & Support (CACTUS) programme is a New Zealand-wide youth initiative that builds positive relationships with Police, rangatahi, their whānau and partners in the community. 

The programme has been underway in Hawke’s Bay for a decade, supported by Police, William Colenso College, Te Kupenga Hauora Ahuriri and involvement from Te Taiwhenua o Heretaunga.

This year 30 students and 20 adult supporters braved chilly mornings and gruelling workouts to build fitness, self-discipline and personal bonds in order to successfully complete the course.

Career goals

Tatyana-Maraea Tuhi, a student at the school’s teen parent unit, decided to do the CACTUS programme to improve her fitness, lose weight and help push her further towards her goal of becoming a police officer. 

For Tatyana-Maraea, the programme provided both physical and mental challenges.

“The hardest part physically was probably running along the shingled stones on the beach. I hated it, but I’d do it again – it was a challenge I was willing to push myself to accomplish.

“I was definitely the biggest, heaviest, and most probably unfittest in the group so I felt a lot of doubt from people. I used that doubt to motivate me to keep going.”

Ultimately Tatyana-Maraea exceeded even her own expectations and says one of the best things was the encouragement and support provided throughout the programme.

“I also enjoyed the new-found relationships with fellow students at Colenso as well as the many supporters, youth workers and Police that participated.”

“I feel as if the CACTUS programme has installed many good ideas and habits for my life personally, such as exercising. I was never really fond of exercise but was determined to work as I really wanted to change my weight, fitness and energy levels. 

“CACTUS has helped me create goals for myself that I now know are achievable if you put in the work, dedicate yourself and are willing to persist even when times get tough.

“This will be an experience I will remember for a very long time and I encourage other students, as well as other mamas from the teen parent unit, to do the programme as it helped me physically and mentally.” 

Five-kilometre runs helped build fitness, endurance and determination.

Five-kilometre runs helped build fitness, endurance and determination.

Early morning mantra

Hitting the gym or running alongside Tatyana-Maraea and other students was Constable Willie Tran, who’s been involved in the programme for several years. Words of encouragement to push their limits and not give up were the early morning mantra for those involved. 

“As the programme progresses, we soon learn each young person’s story,” says Willie. 

“Some come from challenging backgrounds and it very quickly reminds me that my own problems are not that big – waking up early for these kids is the least I can do to help offer them a positive environment and a sense of belonging.

“Students participate on a voluntary basis and when we open the gym at 4.45am there are always young people waiting outside.”

Overseeing the fitness regime is Andrew Banham, a former local kickboxer. He develops exercise and activities that support individual outcomes as well as team building, so a typical morning might include carrying logs and tyres together on a five-kilometre run, tug-o-wars and strength training.

All that hard work on training days is rewarded with hot showers and a hearty breakfast, with kai donated by a local supermarket and prepared by a team from Te Kupenga Hauora Ahuriri. There’s time for a few laughs together before starting the school day. 

CACTUS is all about support

Friends Patisepa Tu’ua and Vaasa Fatialofa have participated in the CACTUS programme twice now, and say it was well worth it both times – they’re even planning on participating again next year.

Leading the way with a log challenge.

Leading the way with a log challenge.

“The reason why we joined was because we believe that CACTUS is not just about fitness, it’s also about getting stronger physically and mentally. This programme also teaches us how to have courage, patience, ambition and most important of all is working together as a team. What we would take out of this programme is to take one step at a time but never give up, because that is what it’s like out there in the real world.

“The other amazing thing about CACTUS is we get to work together with the police officers and that really set a huge goal for our future career pathways as we both want to serve our community. We think the obstacles we had during this programme, were trying to keep up with our school work and leadership roles while also waking up at 4.30am three days a week for seven weeks straight. 

“For those who are thinking of taking this course, we recommend you take on the challenge and say ‘Bring it on!’. Don’t worry if you’re unfit or shy, CACTUS will bring that out of you, but don’t ever think of working independently. CACTUS style is all about supporting each other and a good mind set.”

Leadership, teamwork and resilience

Virginia Engels from William Colenso College has administered the region’s programme since its inception and says students build a range of skills including leadership, teamwork and resilience.

“The 2020 intake was made up of Year 9–13 students, plus two students from our teen parent unit and three international senior students, which made for a fantastic group.

“They all communicated well together and there was a great family feel, lots of fun and laughs whilst lots of hard work. There was also a great team feel, with two teams competing against each other, and a cross-cultural mix of Māori, Pacific, Japanese, Thai, Chinese and Europeans. 

“They all worked really well together, even though our Japanese student thought he was joining a gardening club… which made for the funniest speech when he received the peer award this year!”

Laughter is integral to the CACTUS experience, along with the opportunity for students to develop a rapport with the Police.

“It’s also a unique opportunity for everyone involved to collaborate to support positive outcomes for rangatahi. Working with the Police, Te Kupenga Hauora Ahuriri and Te Taiwhenua o Heretaunga we can collectively make a meaningful difference.”

Positive interaction through CACTUS 

The biggest benefit for Police is the positive interaction they have with students, says Constable Che Lind, a community officer in Hawke’s Bay.

“Before we can work with anyone, we need to have a good connection and this programme definitely improves the relationship we have with students and schools. For the students you see their confidence and self-esteem build as the programme continues – it’s so great to see. 

“We see the junior students looking up to the senior students and the senior students leading by example. The biggest growth I think we see is in their mindset.” 

Want to know more about this programme in your community? Contact your local police station and ask to speak to a community officer.

A proud occasion for the CACTUS recruits and their supporters, whānau and friends.

A proud occasion for the CACTUS recruits and their supporters, whānau and friends.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 11:00 AM, 5 November 2020

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