The kids who had nothing left to eat

Group supporting troubled youths given helping hand by building apprentices.

Jeremy Teinakore remembers the day, as a 13-year-old, he went to his neighbours to ask for food for himself and three younger sisters because there was nothing to eat in his house.

"I remember that day and when I look back I think 'Jeepers that was a lot to deal with'. But at the time I couldn't afford to sit around crying.

"I didn't have time to be scared," he says. "I had responsibilities, I had three sisters under eight and I remember going next door for food because we had none."

Teinakore's plight came following his parents' break-up. With his father and an older brother not around, his mother not coping well, Teinakore had little choice but to temporarily take on the role of surrogate father.

Today Teinakore draws on that experience in his job as a support tutor at the Youthline Auckland Central branch. An organisation established in 1970, it supports young people and their families going through tough times, not unlike those he faced himself.

"It's what motivates me most because, coming from a broken home, I see myself as having gone through some of the same things," he says. "But I was also lucky to have an uncle who helped me through them."

Teinakore's story came to light after a group of Building and Construction Industry Training Organisation (BCITO) apprentices last month helped renovate a computer room at Youthline's Auckland building.

Part of a small school at the centre, the room is used by children aged between 13 and 16, excluded from mainstream schools mainly because of behavourial and non-attendance issues.

The work, free of charge, is part of BCITO's Not Your Average Tradie Road Trip in which the apprentices are travelling the country to help schools, charities and community groups like Youthline with building projects.

They are working on jobs in Auckland, Tauranga, New Plymouth and Wanaka. Trades involved include carpentry, flooring, interior systems, joinery, pre-cast concrete and painting and decorating.

The trip is designed to attract more people into the trades at a time when 50,000 more workers will be needed in the construction industry in the next five years as the building boom continues. About half of these will need to be qualified tradespeople.

Youthline Group

Jeremy Teinakore (kneeling at left in middle row) with Auckland Youthline students and the BCITO apprentices who renovated the school’s computer room.

Teinakore says as a young person he looked up to his uncle: "He taught me lots and took me with him on holidays. He was a really pivotal male voice when I was growing up; it was important for me to have that significant person not only to support me but to tell me when I had been naughty.

"I was still going to school at the time - although not always and not always with the right attitude. I was lucky my uncle stood by me.

"Later in life I got into social work because I wanted to make a difference and attribute my success to the love and support from my wife Corina and daughter Samantha financially, emotionally and spiritually," he says.

Teinakore has been at the Auckland Youthline branch for five years and says pressures on young people are far different than when he was young.

"Often when I look into their eyes, I see no dream because life has pushed them down so much they have no idea there is a wonderful world out there, " he says. "Kids can't get by on their own and while ideally support should be from parents, wherever it comes from is okay.

"They are not perfect but all kids just want to be wanted. At the same time we tell them they have to work hard, that they can't expect things just to come to them and when they get knocked down, to get back up."

Teinakore says 10 students are attending the school but he expects that number to rise to about 18 before the end of the second term.

The computer room - which can take seven students at one time - was badly in need of renovation. In work spread over four days the BCITO apprentices repainted the walls, laid new carpet, built new benchtop desks and installed shelving, a false ceiling, lighting and storage cupboards.

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