It’s a safe space where rangatahi can hang out, learn different skills and meet new people.
The past few years have been tough for us all and even more so for young people. Social isolation and loneliness have resulted from repeated lockdowns and online learning. And Zeal West Auckland is doing something about it. ‘Zeal West is like a whānau,’ explains Manager Hadleigh Pouesi. ‘We help young people overcome the tough stuff, surrounded by a team that walks alongside them with realness, compassion, and aroha,’ he adds.
According to Hadleigh, Zeal West’s goal is that all young people feel seen, valued, safe and empowered. He says the organisation wants to ensure all rangatahi are given a chance to thrive.
However, Zeal West is much more than just a youth centre. The nationwide organisation offers a packed programme for young Westies. There's an onsite dance space, recording studio, digital design lab, and more. Rangatahi can also learn the latest hip-hop moves or guitar licks. They can even find out how to make the perfect flat white with a barista training course.
According to Hadleigh, up to 75 kids a day drop into Zeal West, with many more participating in the wide range of programmes. Zeal West also works in partnership with local schools, including nine West Auckland high schools. The outreach service connects with around 200 students each day.
As a not-for-profit organisation, Zeal relies on fundraising and donations. Support for salary costs is often a challenge. And thanks to the Your West Support Fund, Zeal can face the future with more certainty. The $5,000 funding has gone towards the expenses of two local youth workers.
Both perform invaluable roles. Leilani noticed that many young people were coming to the centre hungry. So, she started a lunch programme with delicious kai. She is also coordinating and delivering care packages to whānau struggling with the rising cost of living.
Leilani’s colleague Angelo specialises in building positive relationships with kids hanging out on the streets. He offers positive alternatives and, as a talented barber, provides free haircuts at Zeal two afternoons a week. Angelo says it's an excellent way to engage young men who otherwise might get involved in crime and vandalism.
There’s no doubt Zeal West Auckland is making a massive difference. And thanks to the Your West Support Fund, the organisation can connect with even more youngsters.
‘People are at the heart of our work,’ explains Manager Hadleigh. ‘With more youth workers on the ground, we can impact even more rangatahi,’ he adds.