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Matt Grey: 7 questions with Zeal’s CEO as we look to 2018

As 2017 draws to a close, we took the chance to have a yarn with Zeal CEO Matt Grey as we reflect on the year gone by and look to the future for the rangatahi of our country.

How did you first get involved with Zeal?

Matt: I actually just wandered into Zeal West because it was in my community, and I wanted to see what it was all about.
I had been working in the social services for years (School Counselor, Drug and Alcohol Counselor, etc.), and was feeling a little over it. I quickly saw at Zeal how incredibly passionate the people were to make a difference in young peoples lives, and how willing they were to go well above and beyond to do that.

How different does Zeal look today compared to when you first started?

Matt: Well, it was smaller.
I think when I started at Zeal there were a lot of amazing people that were deeply passionate but lacked a bit of direction on the best ways to impact someones life.
I think the biggest difference is we still have incredibly passionate people, but are now using best practice models to guide our work.

What have some of the biggest challenges been transitioning to the CEO role?

Matt: Tbh, the biggest challenge has just been the burden of leadership. It’s hard to explain unless you have experienced it.
I genuinely care for my people at Zeal, and when I see things aren’t working as well as they could for my staff, that really affects me and I want to make it better. The burden of knowing a lot of people are depending on me to make things better and make sure they get paid at the end of the week is huge.
Its a burden I’m honoured to have though, and feel grateful I can be in this position for a season.

What are you most proud of from the Zeal team looking back on 2017?

Matt: Oh man, there have been so many I don’t know if I can narrow it down to specific things.
The thing that amazes me the most about the Zeal team is their single minded passion to make a difference in the lives of young people. A lot of people go through their life asking “what’s in it for me,” but the Zeal team ask “what can I do for others”.
I don’t know how we got so lucky to have an entire staff that realize that life is not about consuming stuff, but rather about leaving this place better then when how we found it.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to get in to youth work?

Matt: Don’t do it! Nah jokes.
I would say if you’re wanting to get into youth work, it is generally because you have been through some stuff yourself. In that case I would say:
1: Make sure you’re healed. Don’t get into youth work if you haven’t been through some healing yourself. If you do, you run the risk of your practice being more about trying to get that piece of you that is broken healed instead of for the young person. You don’t have to be perfect, but you do need to be aware of your stuff.
2: Once you’re healed, remember that pain and brokenness, and let that drive your practice. Seeing young people as clients and distancing your emotions from them doesn’t help them. Genuine compassion helps them, as long as you are being professional. Hope that makes sense.

What do you hope to see from Zeal in the future?

Matt: I want to see Zeal be the best at just a few creative things and that those things, along with passionate, compassionate people, help youth to realize that they are someone amazing.
From there, I want to replicate that across the country until every young person in Aotearoa feels that they are someone of worth and deserve great things for themselves.

What do you want for Christmas?

Matt: My two front teeth.

Read more from Zeal:

The Zeal Youth Work Internship, offered in partnership with Praxis NZ, is a unique opportunity to learn and experience youth work over a life-changing two years of work and tertiary study.

“The best youth workers have a firm understanding of why they do what they do (because it is hard to get inspiration from the pay cheque, haha), so understand your WHY, and keep a hold of that.”