Yahoo! News: Helping young people realise their potential during Youth Week
The formative years are difficult for all New Zealanders, balancing social life, family and study, while navigating an unstable job market and other societal expectations.
The formative years are difficult for all New Zealanders, balancing social life, family and study, while navigating an unstable job market and other societal expectations. Imagine how much harder this period can be for young people who have been incarcerated and may not have stable support networks in place? Youth Week is 23rd - 31st May, with a theme of "Kō tātau te ao o āpōpō" or "We are the future" and PARS Inc. (People at Risk Solutions, formerly the Prisoners Aid and Rehabilitation Society) are focusing their efforts on ensuring young people leaving prison get the support they need to be productive, contributing members of society.
On release, many young people face isolation, stigma, restrictions and barriers to the community. The concern that they will not "fit in" is common, and for many, reoffending lands them back in a social environment they are familiar with. Luckily, PARS are on hand to help prisoners adjust to life in the 'real world'.
PARS supports and empowers young people before and after leaving prison. As well as offering a mentoring programme, PARS provides young people with supported accommodation services, as well as job hunting and skills development, to ensure they have the best possible chance of successfully supporting themselves.
"Offering young people released from prison positive support networks provides them with an opportunity to actualise their potential," says Tui Ah Loo, PARS' Executive Director. "It's important that we recognise what they have to offer, and that they have access to services and opportunities which enhance their growth."
Twenty-three year old Tommy- was released from prison due to PARS' supported accommodation service. He had been denied parole previously, as the homes of his friends and relatives were deemed unsuitable for him to live.
"PARS supported me when I had no other options," he says. "I was allowed parole as they offered me a place to live in one of their supported accommodation homes. It's a nice place, and I was let out because I had somewhere suitable to go."
With PARS' support, Tommy's now on the way to where he wants to be in life. "They've been so helpful," he says. "PARS helped me get a good place to live and set up a bank account, and they're currently finding me a mentor who will relate to my own experiences. They've also helped me join a kickboxing club. I used to enjoy it, years ago, and with their help I've started training again; it keeps me out of trouble!" A fast learner and hard worker, Tommy is looking for work in the building industry, and PARS are supporting him through the process of applying for jobs.
In the last financial year, PARS supported 462 young people aged 17-24 years old, and are looking to further their reach, by removing barriers to success and allow as many young people to realise their potential as possible. "The staff there are like Mother Theresa," says Tommy. "They're just so helpful and understanding. If it wasn't for them, I'd definitely still be in prison."
To volunteer with and help to empower young people, please contact PARS Volunteer Coordinator Ruth Patterson on email@example.com or 09 947 6185.