Corie Reid, our Wellington Branch Manager, championed Challenge2000 as part of our Grace Gives program. Allowing employees to nominate organisations and causes close to their hearts and homes, for Grace to donate to or sponsor.

For Corie, it was Challenge2000, an organisation dedicated to supporting young people from lower socio-economic backgrounds. As a comprehensive youth development, community and family social work agency, they provide a range of services and experiences to young people that meet their needs, expand their opportunities and promote social justice.

The team at Challenge 2000 work closely with disadvantaged youth to ensure they develop essential life skills and expand their opportunities to succeed later in life. Following the receipt of a Grace Gives donation, Challenge 2000 are planned a fully funded pilgrimage to Taupo/Rotorua for four students. Those selected will have the opportunity to expand upon their education while experiencing a region they may not otherwise get the chance to. The youth that access Challenge 2000 services overcome complex and ongoing barriers due to low socio-economic backgrounds and this journey will provide self-discovery while challenging their way of thinking, building on self-confidence and expanding existing relationships.

Kerry Burton from Challenge 2000 has written to Grace about the wonderful experience her and the young students had on the trip:

“In 2018, as a new Social Worker for Challenge2000, I had experienced a pilgrimage with a group of secondary school students, which I found to be so beneficial to the participants; emotionally, spiritually and physically.  It was then I decided to apply for funding, so I could embark on such an adventure with the students I work with at Aotea College.

I was informed that my grant application had been successful for such a trip, and 14 days later our community lost one of our young men in a tragic car accident.  12 days after that, one of our young ladies took her own life – and so began the Porirua Suicide Contagion. I took stock of what was happening around me, and came to the conclusion that I wanted to reach out further than the College I was working in, and approached the Challenge2000 Porirua College Social Worker, asking her if she would like to bring two of her students on the trip I had planned, as Porirua College was the College most affected by these horrific events.

We decided to take four young ladies up to Rotorua, with the aim to provide a fun and safe experience outside of the Wellington region, which they would not otherwise get the opportunity to do. We also hoped that the trip would provide space and time for the girls to “discover” themselves and each other, help them explore their purpose and direction, and give them a chance to participate in activities that challenged their current way of thinking.

As this trip away proved to provide favourable results on so many levels, I decided that I had to apply for funding for another trip in 2019.  I applied for the Grace Gives funding round and also for funding from the Porirua City Council – both of which I was successful with.

This time we took younger girls – Year 9 to 11 – and due to timing factors, we could only take them away for four days.  As expected, the girls were quite guarded around the girls from the “other” College, but by the time we got to the Desert Road, they had found many commonalities and much to talk, and talk and talk about!

When we reached our home-base, a family home type accommodation, which was a five minute walk to the edge of Lake Taupo, we presented the girls with their gifts of fully stocked toilet bags and Reflection/Gratitude Journals – both of which got plenty of use over the duration of the trip.

On the first full day, we ventured into Taupo township, and boarded the Earnest Kemp Steamboat.  This took us to the famous Maori Rock Carvings, which the girls were absolutely fascinated by.  The Cruise Guide gave a lot of local history, and explained the origin of the carvings, which we were able to see REALLY close up.

After the calm and sedentary boat ride back to Taupo township, we piled the girls back into the van and drove to the Rapid Jet Boat Rides.  To say they had a great time is an understatement –they were absolutely fizzing when we reached dry land again.  During the drive back to home base, the conversation was very animated to say the least! After the adrenaline rush of the afternoon, the girls felt a quiet night in was in order, so after an easy dinner of cold chicken and salad, we settled down to a games evening.

The next morning, the girls decided to take the 5 minute walk down to the edge of Lake Taupo for a swim.  Here they stayed for a good three hours, reveling in “their own private beach”.  They commented on how pretty the scenery was, and how calm and peaceful they felt in the water. It was a blessing to see the girls playing “games” in the water – being taniwha, being mermaids – just being a group of new-found friends, totally relaxed, without the normal pressures and responsibilities they face in their day-to-day lives.

We had to drag them out of the water to go to our next destination – Rotorua!

They thought that the gondola ride to the top of the Skyline Complex was all we were going to do while we were there, so they were over the moon when they were told they were allowed to go down on the luge several times.

The heavens opened on the third of their fifth rides down, and everyone got literally drenched right through to the skin – the chair-lift back to the top stopping several times mid down-pour didn’t help either – but the girls showed they are made of tough stuff, and kept on going, while the rest of the public took shelter in the Café, or left.

That evening was bitter-sweet for us all, as we knew we had to go home the next day.  The girls stayed up until the wee hours, talking, laughing and singing.  With that in mind, we allowed them a “sleep in” the following morning, before we tidied up our home base, packed up the van and headed South.

The comments coming from the back of the van, such as: “I thought you girls would be stink, since you come from the other College, but you are actually ok”, “I had the BEST time ever – thank you my sisters!” and “I had heard stuff about you, but it’s all wrong – you are a good chick on my vibe, and I’ve got your back now” prompted me to remind the girls to keep those lessons in particular close to their hearts, and at the front of their minds, during the rest of their life journey’s.

We stopped in Levin for a late lunch at Cobb and Co.  A few of the girls had to be reassured that they were allowed to order anything they wanted on the menu, including dessert, and after that a great meal was had by all. To top the trip off, we took the girls into a nail bar, for some good old-fashioned girly pampering.

When they were told they could get their nails done, or their eyelashes and brows tinted and tidied, they thought we were joking.  It took several minutes of talking to convince them, then they finally picked out their preferred nail colours very enthusiastically.

We got to Porirua around 5.00pm, with four very tired young ladies.

When dropping each off to their whanau, we got a sincere and emotional “Thank You!” before they tumbled out of the van with their memories, new friendships and glamorous nails.

And I would like to say “Thank You!” to everyone who made this special time with the girls possible – you are amazing, and we are forever grateful.”

Kerry Burton – Challenge 2000 MASSiS Social Worker @ Aotea College.