THE graduates conquer a 50km tramp that pushed many of the attendees to their limits, but most say it was an incredible experience. Photo supplied

A military-based training programme is helping Eastern Bay youth towards a brighter future. As they prepare to enter the navy, army, police force and other careers, recent graduates of the Limited Services Volunteer programme talk to reporter Hazel Osborne about how the programme has changed them.

AT the end of last year, six young men and one woman from Kawerau and the surrounding area embarked on a programme they claim has changed their lives forever.

Rangiteaorere Raki Cage, Bailey Thorpe, Te Aorehua Beamsley-Rehe, Jordan Leigh Ngaheu, Jonny-Paige Dorrans, Travis John Paul and Gryffin McKeown all attended and then graduated from the Limited Service Volunter programme.

The training programme runs through Work and Income and, hosted by the New Zealand Defence Force, addresses the barriers many young people face in finding employment and training in New Zealand and accepts enrolments from students between 18 and 24 years of age.

Although not an easy ride by any measure, it was gratitude and anticipation for a brighter future that each graduate exuded when speaking with the Opotiki News
Mr Cage, 18, was working at the bait stations with his koro before he went into the LSV programme, although he knew a career in the defence force was always on the cards for a very special reason.

“I wanted to join the forces because one of my uncles [Luke Tamatea, sniper in Afghanistan] died a few years ago.

“He was blown up overseas when they drove over a mine, so I wanted to join the army on behalf of him. That’s what pushed me forward,” Mr Cage said.

Mr Cage will be joining the next intake of eager men and women in late February, and with the skills he gained through the LSV programme, he’s now ready to learn from failure and excel in his future.

“I think I learnt the proper meaning of what it is to fail,” he said.

“The word fail means further attempt in learning, and I took that on board and if I failed at something I wanted to aim big and try and succeed in what I failed in.”

Coming top of his platoon of 100, 21-year-old Bailey Thorpe is also using his LSV experience to begin an army career.

“I’ve been wanting to be in the army since I was 12, that’s when I started banging on about it to my parents.

“They thought it was a phase and that I’d get over it but here I am now at 21 years of age and I’ll be going in in February.”

Mr Thorpe has faced a multitude of barriers and being told he was mentally unfit to join the programme just made him want to work harder and prove the doubters wrong.

“When I found myself out of work, before LSV, I was feeling quite stressed-out and anxious just because I’d had a job since I was 18 and this was the first time I had found myself without work.

“It was stressful for me sorting out bills, and I went into the doctor for stress-related illness like not being able to sleep and having feelings of anxiety.

“From that they deemed me mentally and psychologically unfit to go down, two weeks before I was meant to go.

“Basically, I had to prove to everyone that I was more than capable to go down and it was very stressful but I sorted it out.

“I like pushing myself and digging deep. When I found that things were getting hard I was in my element. I thought ‘this is why I came here’,” Mr Thorpe said.

Te Aorehua Beamsley-Rehe, 24, said his time with LSV was a complete game-changer.

Initially he too wanted to pursue a career in the armed forces but while away on the programme he decided that the forces were not for him.

However, this didn’t deter him from taking full advantage of what was on offer and encouraged him to pursue another passion – farm work.

“It’s a privilege knowing what happens in the military, and it was my goal before I left to get into the defence force, but once I had a taste for it, I realised it may not be for me. But

it was a great experience.

“I have a dream of owning or managing my own farm in the future, and this programme gave me the tools to begin my journey into the farming industry.

“It’s set me up for a better future,” Mr Beamsley-Rehe said.

As one of the youngest in the platoon, 18-year-old Jordan Leigh Ngaheu started two personal journeys on LSV, a journey of self-improvement and sobriety.

“I was a drug addict and an alcoholic, and I used to smoke on a daily basis, and I had friends that would motivate me to do the wrong thing,” he said.

“I wanted to change that, I wanted to change my life and do good things.”

Eager to join the navy, Mr Ngaheu saw opportunity in what the programme had to offer him.

“My family is feeling proud, they thought I was never going to quit drugs but here I am now, and I’ll never touch that stuff again.

“I really enjoyed the LSV course because it put me on the right path and made me look forward to the future. Now I have goals to reach, and hopefully I can reach it too,” Mr Ngaheu said.

Only seven girls graduated from the platoon, and one of those was 19-year-old Jonny-Paige Dorrans.

Miss Dorrans said she initially dismissed the idea, thinking that it might be too hard to be away from family and friends for the six-week duration. But after she realised it would create a pathway toward the navy, the decision to participate was a no-brainer.

“It was hard and there were thoughts of ‘yeah I want to go home’. I just wanted to be back in my comfort zone but I had my friends in the course and they’re basically family, supporting me all the way.

“It was amazing seeing my family watch me on the parade ground and see what I had done and achieved.

“I was always told I was the princess of the platoon. People would tell me in the corridor that I was a princess, and I just got angry and proved them wrong and after I proved myself I didn’t get called that again.”

Miss Dorrans will commence her basic training for the navy in February.

“I know I can do it, I’ve worked so hard, and seeing those improvements I just want to keep it up,” she said.

Eighteen-year-old Travis John Paul was another graduate who wanted to use his skills for a different reason, to become a police officer in his town of Te Teko.

“I wanted a career in the police force. One of my best friends said that LSV would help me and joining the police force has been a massive long-term goal for me.

“There’s only one cop in my small town, and I want to be able to continue to support my family from home.”

Mr Paul said the hardest aspect of the programme was asking himself the question, “Where to from here?”

With the help of his nan and koro, his two greatest inspirations, he is eager to stay on track as he heads towards police college.

“Everything is worth it with that course,” Mr Paul said.

The oldest child in his family, 19-year-old Gryffin McKeown signed up for LSV to set an example for his younger siblings and cousins.

“I wanted to set a good example.

“When I met Jackson (MSD case manager) he told me he was in the navy and I’d wanted to get into the navy myself. In doing the LSV course, it was the first step towards getting in.”

Although facing major challenges on the programme, Mr McKeown said the satisfaction of completing it and the motivation it’s given him to pursue a career in the navy was worth it.

“It was difficult at times, but I felt lucky to have people to support me all the way through to the end. When it finished, I was so proud of myself, but it was hard coming to terms with leaving.

“The family are very supportive, when I got home it was just hugs on hugs, because I have a lot of sisters.”

Mr McKeown, much like every other graduate from the programme, is determined to reach his goals and with the skills he and his newfound “family” have learnt, their dreams are that bit closer.