The 2020 Napier CACTUS participants have successfully completed the seven-week programme.
Around 30 William Colenso College students and their 20 adult supporters have been a familiar sight recently for Napier’s early risers as they hit the streets building fitness, discipline and most importantly partnerships.
The Combined Adolescent Challenge Training Unit (CACTUS) programme is a youth initiative that allows Police to build positive relationships with rangatahi, their whanau and partners in the community. The Napier programme, which finished last week, is run once a year and is supported by Police, William Colenso College and Te Kupenga Hauora Ahuriri with additional involvement from Te Taiwhenua o Heretaunga.
Napier Police Constable Willie Tran has been involved in the programme for a number of years and has been seen running alongside the young students encouraging them to keep going and push their limits.
“We have a real range of kids on the programme from all sorts of backgrounds. Every morning we open the gym at 4:45am and there are young people waiting outside keen to be part of CACTUS and always willing to help me set up. None of them are forced to do this programme. They all wake up early and voluntarily come along.”
“As the programme progresses we soon learn each young person’s story. Some come from challenging backgrounds and it very quickly reminds me that my own problems are not that big and waking up early for these kids is the least I can do to help offer them a positive environment and the sense of belonging. Even today I still have past CACTUS participants who are now young adults that greet me in the street.”
Virginia Engels from William Colenso College has administered the programme since it began 10 years ago.
“The change in the relationship between our students and Police since the programme began is unbelievable. Rather than thinking Police just turn up to take people away when things go bad, our students are now developing a rapport with Police,” says Virginia.
She says the students build a range of skills including leadership, teamwork and resilience. It has become the perfect place for young leaders to hone their skills.
Former local kickboxer and qualified trainer Andrew Banham oversees the fitness regime, which includes working as a team to carrying logs and tyres on a five kilometre run, tug-o-wars and strength training.
Once the fitness element of the programme is over for the morning, everyone heads off to the showers, thanks to a local business providing clean towels, followed by a hearty breakfast donated by a local supermarket and prepared by a team from Te Kupenga Hauora Ahuriri.