At the end of the April school holidays, more than 140 young people involved in Raise Up, YMCA Auckland’s leadership programme for young people, descended on the iconic YMCA Camp Adair facility for the 11th annual Youth Development Camp. 

Between 13 and 18 years old, participants at this year’s camp came from 11 Auckland and Hamilton locations and spent the week getting amped up about the things they want to achieve in their local communities over the year ahead.    

This year’s camp focused on developing leadership skills through Adventure Based Learning (ABL), workshops, forums, and various other activities that these youth leaders will take back to their regions and use. Activities were based around the theme of ‘if not now, when?’, which was chosen by these young people with the idea of inspiring action. The sentiment was very much that this inspiring (and inspired!) group of young people have a lot to offer, to both their peers and their wider communities, and that now is the time to act!

As well as having a great time in a setting free of alcohol, drugs and smoking, the goals of the camp were to positively unite the regional YMCA youth programmes, prepare the young people for Youth Week and the year ahead, and empower and inspire them through supportive pathways and leadership opportunities.

It wasn’t just aspirational, though, as these young people are all very much already ‘walking the talk’. As a collective, Raise Up young people deliver over 20,000 hours of service back to their communities each year and have attracted more than 15,000 young people to participate in community activities that connect them to their local environments and other youth, which is certainly something worth celebrating!

In fact, meeting other people and having somewhere safe to hang out is a key driver behind why many of the young people involved joined Raise Up in the first place. George, who is part of the Papakura Raise Up crew and is currently in his last year of school at De La Salle, adds “Raise Up gave me a more positive place to be, without the violence and fighting that my old mates are part of.”

Similarly, Lydia from Mt Albert’s crew wanted to extend her boundaries. Homeschooled during the week, Lydia wanted to gain confidence to meet new people and make new friends. She attended only three meetings with her local crew before attending camp but had a fantastic time.  

As well as traversing the high ropes course, making videos and a participating in a fun, friendly colour fight, the young people at camp joined local Department of Conservation rangers to complete a number of community projects, providing more than 120 hours of voluntary work across the week. Along with learning and education – through spoken word workshops and stories from inspiring guest speakers – campers enjoyed taking part in the social aspects, such as the campfire evening and a performance from an improv theatre group. The young people were also encouraged to take on various roles throughout the week, such as facilitating activities like the quiz night, MC’ing events, and food prep.

Now that Raise Up young people are back in their communities and putting their positive plans into place, they’ll be working towards their vision of Aotearoa being a country where young people are vibrant and optimistic, while being supported and encouraged to take up challenges.  We can’t wait to see what they have in store next!