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Zeal’s Ākonga programme is set for another exciting year

In 2020, funded by the Ministry of Youth Development, Zeal was successful in receiving a grant from the Ākonga Youth Development Fund to run a series of training and work-readiness programmes. The fund, set up in response to the impacts of Covid-19, equipped rangatahi who have disengaged or are at risk of disengaging from their educational learning, to build new skills that support them in future employment or study opportunities. It also helped to enable youth workers during these programmes to connect with young people on a deeper and more meaningful level.

By the end of this year, approximately 380 young people will have gone through an Ākonga training programme learning skills in either barista, live sound and lighting, photography or event management. As part of the course many participants have gained paid practical work experience in Stories Espresso Bar (Zeal’s social enterprise café), the Zeal coffee cart, local cafés or at Zeal events, with several moving into permanent employment. Now going forward into 2023, Zeal is proud to announce the ongoing support from the Ministry of Youth Development, which means these programmes are set to continue for another year.

"Academia isn't for everyone, and I see it more and more since covid has changed our lives. Students are struggling in school, and because they struggle to learn in the classroom setting, and so they see themselves as failures. I love seeing when they realise that classroom learning isn't the only way to learn, and often more practical avenues are so much better.

Some key outcomes and wins

  •   We have had several ākonga go out and gain employment which is massive for them. We have seen them push through anxiety as they take on work experience. We have had several teachers tell us their students are totally different young people now, and they are grateful for the opportunity Zeal and the programme has afforded them. For some students Zeal has become a place of support and belonging that goes beyond the programme which we are really excited about.

  •  One student who started the course in term 3 had previously been expelled from school and had lost all motivation. His attendance at his course in term 3 was 71% and he struggled to focus and motivate himself. The goal setting session helped him rethink his future and he turned things around in term 4, with 98% attendance, a motivated, focussed attitude, and a plan to reengage in mainstream school.

  • So far 2 students from the first intake this year have gained permanent employment from their work experience. One got offered permanent work on her first day of work experience at a local café. The other is deaf and had a cochlear implant. The coffee orders are printed on a docket, so she can read them. She even has people coming to order coffees in sign language.

A story of impact from Hamilton Zeal

"Through this programme we were able to create trust; this trust led to conversations around bullying, different passions, home life and more. One of our boys opened up to me and told me he used to love playing the guitar, but he doesn't play the guitar anymore because whānau had told him he wasn't good enough. I empathised. I let him know that we had heaps of guitars around and told him I would love to hear him play one day. He put himself down in everything he did, constantly saying "I'm not good at it, I can't do it" before even trying. There was a lot of emotional damage there that couldn't be undone in one session, but I knew that we could make a start. We encouraged often, listened frequently, and let him rest when he needed it. Fast forward to our last class, this same boy who had constantly been told he wasn't good enough, picked up the guitar and asked if he could play a song, not just for me, but for his peers too. It's the small wins that make this programme a success, it's things like this that make me so excited that we've received this funding again."

A massive thank you

To Ministry of Youth Development, all tutors, Zeal youth workers and especially the young people involved.