Lifting the hopes and dreams of rangatahi

Issue: Volume 100, Number 2

Posted: 25 February 2021
Reference #: 1HAHHk

Champion New Zealand weightlifter David Liti helped show the young people on the Imagine Believe Achieve (IBA) programme in Tauranga the importance of setting goals and seizing opportunities.

“Blow your kisses, not your opportunities”: David Liti’s advice for IBA participants.

As a Commonwealth Games gold medallist, weightlifter David Liti has tasted success. But he’s also experienced enough challenges and setbacks over the course of his 24 years to be able to relate to the struggles faced by some of the rangatahi on the IBA youth mentoring programme, which started in 2020.

The IBA programme hinges on the delivery of three pou, or pillars: the four walls of Te Whare Tapa Whā (mental, social, whānau and physical wellbeing); eight employability skills (self-management, resilience, reliability, teamwork, thinking skills, responsibility, willingness to learn and positive attitude); and the IBA values (respect, responsibility, trust, kindness, and resilience).

“Collectively these provide a huge platform for our IBA participants to succeed in their own pathway,” says Andre Jay, lead facilitator for IBA.

David is one of many mentors to work with the IBA participants. The programme has seen an array of sporting role models, entrepreneurs and others inspire and motivate the rangatahi. In addition to many workshop sessions, the group has visited worksites, tertiary education institutions, gyms, and contributed to many community initiatives.

Fourteen participants have graduated from the IBA programme in its first year and are now successfully engaged in apprenticeships, study and full-time work. They are contacted on a regular basis through IBA’s post-pastoral support programme.

Lifting and life lessons

In November 2020, David led the group in a relaxed session that began in the gym with a kōrero and lifting session and ended at the beach with hot chips and a swim.

“I think I can relate to the kids because I sort of understand what they go through,” he says.

“That’s the sort of mentoring they need – someone who understands so that they know that even though they’ve come through troubles and obstacles they can still end up being someone who others will one day look up to.”

David’s key piece of advice to rangatahi is: “Blow your kisses, not your opportunities.”

 “In life, doors will open and doors will close,” he adds.

The first door to weightlifting opened for David as a young student at high school. He was among a group of boys who were encouraged to try out weightlifting.

“We all thought we would be bicep curling, bench pressing and getting big chests and big biceps – but we ended up snatching with a stick for a week. And we all quit within that first week.”

He didn’t return to weightlifting until Year 12 – initially to help with his rugby – until his talent as a lifter began to emerge.

“I went to my first nationals that year. I won youth and junior and came third in seniors. I qualified for internationals in 2014 and came home with a silver. And then I thought I could give this a shot. The rest is history.”

But it hasn’t been without hard mahi along the way. “To achieve goals, you’ve got to set goals first and then chip away at them bit by bit,” he says.

Perseverance is key

David’s sessions with IBA left a lasting impression on 19-year-old participant Grace Stickings, who says the most important thing she learned from David is the importance of routine in achieving your goals.

“He was very impressive. He is a self-made man and shows opportunities for Polynesian kids outside of just being a rugby player. Perseverance is key,” she says.

David is eager to see Pacific young people bust the stereotypes and shine.

“To be honest, a lot of people here in New Zealand are blind to the fact that us Polys and Māori are really talented. A lot of our kids just end up drinking in the garage and wasting the opportunity to show the world what they are made of and what they can do. We’re not just obese kids from the Pacific.”

Profound impact

Andre says this message aligns with the work they’ve been doing with the participants.

“We were really drawn to David Liti working with us because he is a young Polynesian male who has achieved some amazing things. His talk around setting goals and having a mindset to achieve these is something that really resonated with our own values and visions for our rangatahi.”

The IBA programme has had a profound impact on many of the participants, including Grace.

“I feel like I have become a whole different person both mentally and physically,” she says.

“I am looking forward to the future when I used to be worried about it. I feel like I’m going to be able to go into the world and be successful and I know there is a support system behind me if I need it.”

“IBA has given me my life back” 

Ezra (aged 20) reflects on his experience of the IBA programme.

I was sceptical about attending IBA because it was something new that I hadn’t done before, and I didn’t have much information about the course and what the course would entail. Once I arrived, it was easier to understand the course and that it was tailored to your needs. The facilitators helped me understand that the course was aimed at getting a job and was leading to full-time employment.

More importantly it was about getting a routine back into my life and my life back on track – by getting fit, learning about different opportunities in work through site visits and through the many guest speakers. I have learned to become work-ready by understanding the core values, the eight employability skills, and whare tapa whā (Māori health and wellbeing) model. 

About four weeks into the course, I got some work experience at Otto’s café [Oscar and Otto] as a kitchenhand. I was really nervous at first because of the fear of the unknown. I didn’t know what to expect and how I was going to go about the job. As I got more experience in the job, my confidence grew. The owner helped show me where things go and the systems of the kitchen.

The IBA facilitators kept in contact with me by visiting me on site, helping me work in the kitchen and talking about the work. This opportunity showed me what it would be like to work full-time in a job like this. I have just completed a six-week casual contract and am looking forward to seeing what is next for me in the future.

I now have an opportunity to work with MediaWorks doing promotion work. IBA has given me my life back.

For more on the Imagine, Believe, Achieve programme, see the Gazette’s article here(external link).

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 9:29 am, 25 February 2021

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