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It started out in 1998 as the vision of Hokitika Community Constable Rob Fox for a community-based programme that could assist local youth in their personal development. Today, Combined Adolescent Challenge Training Unit Support (CACTUS) has blossomed into a highly successful programme delivering positive change to young people on the West Coast as well as towns including Rotorua, Wairoa and Nelson.
At CACTUS Hoki (Hokitika), participants go through an intensive fitness and skills programme, benefiting from proximity to the great outdoors that the wild West Coast offers. Courses run for eight to ten weeks parallel to school terms, extending teenagers’ physical, social and character development through activities like climbing, caving, rafting, mountain biking and tramping.
According to CACTUS Westland Trust Coordinator John Winsley, the programme’s objectives are to grow self-discipline and strength of character, encourage physical and mental development and wellbeing, reinforce positive social skills and attitudes, and develop an ability to break through personal limitations and achieve goals.
“Each course concludes with a challenge to test participants’ progress and their ability to work as a team,” said John. “These are a reward for their efforts, and an incentive to participate and see the course to its conclusion.”
Participants face evaluation on several criteria: a required fitness test at the beginning and end of each course, a personal and team evaluation by supervisors, completion of an indoor triathlon, self-evaluation, and feedback from parents and stakeholders (police, schools and others in the local community).
Cody Weaver, a 16-year-old who completed the course, highly recommended it to anyone who likes the outdoors. “CACTUS has helped me to stay fit and mentally disciplined,” he said. His contemporary, Jimmy Esson, seconded that view: “My social and teamworking skills have improved while at CACTUS. I now work better in groups.”
At The Tindall Foundation, we want to empower young people to cope with the challenges of adolescence and help prepare them for adulthood. Through our local Funding Manager Buller/West Rural Education Activities Programme (Reap) we have made a three-year commitment to CACTUS, donating $8000 annually since 2010.
Buller/West Reap Manager Corinna Gestro-Best observed that CACTUS “has a very strong fit with the criteria we were looking for under the Youth Development Scheme, and a team of dedicated volunteers.” The funding enables CACTUS to run courses for more than 60 teenagers — some of whom have been referred to the programme by youth services, police or schools.
A blog documents the exploits of CACTUS Hoki and enables all those involved to share and retain memories of what they have achieved. These images, tales and testimonials demonstrate how young people can learn about outdoor activities, teamwork and discipline while making friends and having fun.
For more information contact:
John Winsley, Coordinator
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