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Giving back through Youth Development

Becoming a dad was the impetus for Leading Youth Development Specialist James Atelea Faleofa to switch trades.

20 October, 2022

In 2020, LYDS Faleofa felt he’d reached a point in his career where it was time to give back to the community.

He’d served as a Chef since joining the Royal New Zealand Navy in 2009.

“As a new father and experiencing what I have in my 10 years in the Navy, I wanted to ensure the next generation had an opportunity to step out of their comfort zone, and a chance to explore, experience and appreciate life,” LYDS Faleofa says.

So he joined the tri-service Youth Development Unit.

Together, YDU and Cadet Forces deliver courses to more than 6,000 young people every year.

They include the six-week Limited Service Volunteer (LSV) course, for unemployed 18-to-24 year olds who are not in study or training.

In the field and the classroom, Youth Development Specialists help motivate trainees and boost their self-confidence; teaching teamwork, resilience, and life skills.

LYDS Faleofa says from the moment the trainees walk through the gates, he’s determined to do all he can to ensure they leave with a new perspective on life.

“You learn that the majority of them just needed a chance … Over the six-week period young leaders start to show, others begin to learn more about themselves, and others find a spark within them - to not only make a change, but be the change.”

He says it can be very challenging mentally and not everyone completes the LSV course.

“The feeling I get when I see the trainees march out on graduation day is priceless. I see their family and friends expressing their joy, and the trainee beaming with pride.

“I know that I have done my part in guiding them in a direction I hope they continue.”

YDU also supports 29 Services Academies within secondary schools, fostering skills and values to help senior students take positive roles in society.

LYDS Faleofa was once in their shoes; as part of the Kelston Boys’ Services Academy he was inspired to join the Navy by Warrant Officer Seaman Combat Specialist Ngahiwi Walker’s stories of life at sea.

Now he’s giving back, through an organisation called Fahi On; a group of former and current Kelston Boys’ High School students striving to be the best they can be.

“YDU has given me the tools to work with the youth in my area, to allow them to get the best opportunity in life.”