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Dirt Bike Therapy gets teen back on track

Quintin White and his mentor Andre Whitehead. Photo: Supplied.

Quintin White has come a long way since the start of the year.

The 15-year-old was on the brink of moving to Alternative Education after struggling in school earlier this year. He knew back then that it wasn’t where he was meant to be and he needed to change.

To help him get back on track, Quintin was referred to Youth Encounter – a charity that helps young people reach their full potential through dirt bike therapy, mentoring, camps and leadership courses.

When he first joined their eight-week Dirt Bike Encounter Therapy programme, he wouldn’t say a word – shyness holding him back. He had very low self-esteem and struggled to see his value and potential.

Now, 4 months on, he has graduated from the programme and gained the confidence and determination to achieve the bright future he was always destined for.

He is now back in mainstream education, closer with his family, and has big dreams ahead. He now has goals to build stronger connections with his friends and complete an automotive mechanic apprenticeship.

Quintin is now engaged in Youth Encounter’s mentoring program and is attending their Spring Fest Camp later this month.

His mentor Andre Whitehead says Quintin has completely transformed.

“I was the mentor for the group Dirt Bike Encounter programme he joined back in June. He has come such a long way since then - he’s pushed through those challenges that came along, and gained more self-control.

“I’ve seen him become happier within himself, he wants to learn and grow, and he’s really engaging with whatever we are doing. He’s more talkative and asks questions, and he gives us a bit longer answers – it’s not just one word, it’s sentences now. We’re so proud of him for achieving his goal of staying in school. He’s got an incredible future ahead of him.”

Youth Encounter’s programmes are developed for rangatahi identified as at-risk or disadvantaged – those often found struggling with behavioural and social issues due to intergenerational poverty, histories of trauma, abuse and neglect, and high housing transience.

Many are no longer in school, others are caught up in the justice system, and some self-harm. But all have one thing in common; they are disengaged and require something outside the box of normal interventions.

Youth Encounter provides just that. It starts with their Dirt Bike Encounter programme, using dirt bikes as the tool to connect with the youth. The programme not only teaches the youth how to safely ride a dirt bike, but also the life techniques that will empower them to take a better track forward, through Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and activities that challenge thought patterns.

Mary Wanhill, Youth Encounter Managing Director, says the programme works so well as it engages youth to enjoy a risk-taking activity outside of the typical risk-taking many teens can take.

“Dirt biking is a risky activity. That risk-taking and the adrenaline you get from it is a real pull in for these young people. There are so many rules and regulations in our world. I see our young people wrapped in so much cotton wool – it’s restricting them from their freedom of expression, and they aren’t able to learn through experience.

“Youth Encounter is giving these young people space to push those boundaries, so that instead of getting into drugs and alcohol, they are taking risks going round the corners, tackling the difficult obstacles and soaring high over the jumps.

“Our aim for our rangatahi is to feel a sense of belonging and value - this will result in them finding purpose and security in their identity, hope for the future and resilience.”

After completing the Dirt Bike Encounter programme, participants can continue to receive ongoing, individualised support by joining the mentoring programme. They also have the opportunity to attend Encounter Connect group events every two weeks, camps, and leadership courses where they can volunteer back into the organisation.

Youth Encounter sought funding from TECT to help cover operating costs for their Dirt Bike Encounter Therapy, Mentoring and Connect programmes.

Mary says the $30,000 in TECT funding is incredibly important, helping ensure the charity can continue running.

“There is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes to make this all happen; there is so much compliance to be a charitable trust, and we need more staff to do what we do.

“From the many yearly audits, safety procedures, accounts, and coordinating – it takes a lot of time, and we need paid staff to do that. It’s getting more and more expensive to make a difference. TECT’s funding is vital in helping us achieve that – we couldn’t do what we do without it. Their support over the past three years has been instrumental in making it possible for us to do our mahi.”

For the past ten years, Youth Encounter has been a mobile operation based out of the Pirni Motorbike Park. But with the site recently sold and the organisation growing, they are now looking to realise their dream of owning a property with purpose-built facilities to run their camps, programmes and training.

But what they are in need of is proving difficult to find. They are looking to purchase a 10-hectare block of land with hill contour, good driveway access and an area to establish buildings on in Paengaroa - a central point to Te Puke, Tauranga, Whakatane and Rotorua.

Mary says having their own space to call home will enable them the flexibility and resources to better shape their programmes to serve people in more meaningful and life-changing ways.

For more information visit this page.

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