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17 things 2017 taught us

We had a dream to inspire a nation to take action to ensure that all children in New Zealand are truly valued and can live a life free of violence and fear.  A life full of hope.
To do that we knew we had to get out into our communities and learn directly from our people – the doers and change makers, the victims, those who are vulnerable but really all of us (because our attitude as a nation reflects our outcomes).

In May 2017 we set off with our family in a big yellow bus supported by  Stop the Bus Charitable Trust and so many others who share our passion for valuing kids of Aotearoa.

We want to share with you 17 important things we learnt in 2017 that will help shape the next chapter of this project:

1. Some of the most active members of our communities had a rough start in life
While many of us get offended by trivial matters, we met several people who had stories that were too painful to speak out loud.  It was humbling for us to find that many of these people had made a strong stand to dedicate their life to helping others and were highly influential within their communities.

2. People genuinely want to help make a difference for kids in Aotearoa
We just need more people to lead the way

3. Kids have an uncanny ability to break through social barriers

4. Non Government Organisations (NGOs) who provide social services are often on 1 year contracts
This was one of the more surprising observations of our support system.    Funding is often reliant (but not guaranteed) on a tick box system in an environment that has constant variables.  Because funding is often short-term, many did not know if they would be able to continue the following year.   We spoke to many social workers, several of whom had great ideas on how to be more effective but funding in this way often stifled long term vision.

5. People can change
Heck yes they can and we have seen evidence of that.  That child you wrote off in the past could very well be the person who saves your life one day.

6. The happiest people we have met on this journey are working for people not for money

7. We are often so busy looking afar that we miss what is happening right in front of us
In 2017 we were shocked and disgusted by all that was going on in Hollywood.  Except that the same is happening within our own community.

8. The most effective programmes we found are doing it together ‘with’ their community rather than ‘to’ the community 
For some reason we forget to listen.  We make assumptions and decisions of behalf of others but don’t actually take the time to really understand their needs.  We can be far more effective by working together towards solutions.

9. Doing things ‘with’ your child/ren rather than ‘to’ your child/ren is a great way to value our little people
The same as #8 above but bringing it closer to home.  This may be just a slight shift in our thinking but an effective way to foster respectful relationships.

10. You can positively impact people’s lives simply by doing what you love!
We have been blown away by the people changing lives through sports, music and other skills (ie. gardening, cooking).  Not only are they passing on new talents – they are able to role model values and social skills that are transferable into all other areas of life.  Also noteworthy is that most people don’t actually ask for help – so these initiatives provided opportunities to awhi those who needed it (who may not have otherwise been noticed).

11. Some of the above initiatives were also transforming kids into leaders and it’s a beautiful thing
Having faith in a child is massive.  We were inspired to see so many young empowered leaders continuing on the legacy of those who impacted on them.

12. Actual time and experiences with your child/ren is worth more than loads of things

13. Countless adults we met are still haunted by acts of child abuse against them that went unreported or were not taken seriously at the time (often of a sexual nature)
None of the people who told us this information in confidence were Māori.  It is time we got honest.  This is not just a Māori or a poor person problem, it is an issue that affects all of us.  Some are just better at hiding it.

14. You can teach a man to fish… even Chris
Thanks to some tools and skills that were provided to us while on this journey, Chris was able to provide some kai for our table.  Ain’t that a valuable thing.

15. Identity IS important
We are born with a need to belong but also a longing for a self understanding.  Children (and people in general) who feel displaced will often try and fill that void somehow.  A good understanding of your identity means being able to recognise both the good and bad, providing you the opportunity to add to your story by choosing the best way forward.

16. Child abuse in New Zealand will not stop unless we all take responsibility for it
That could mean preventative action (support  when required), seeking help for either ourselves or someone else.  The problem is that helping, speaking out or seeking help may come at our own detriment (fear, time commitment, relationship loss…).  Because of this, many children will not get the help they need.

17. Despite all of the above, we are full of hope for Aotearoa
When we scroll through our Facebook feed, when we tune into the news, it is easy to feel disheartened.  Yes, we have heard and seen a whole lot of hard stuff, but FAR OUT – New Zealand is full of big-hearted people.  It’s a shame we neglect to share these stories.  Stories that unite and inspire more people to be a part of the change.

We believe New Zealand has all the ingredients to be world leaders in valuing our children.  We are innovative world leaders in so may areas despite our small size.  Imagine if we applied that same passion and drive and united on the proper care of our children: to truly prioritise the children of Aotearoa as our tāonga (treasures).

As we prepare to get back on the road for 2018 we are excited to be able to share in the lives of many more New Zealanders and continue this learning journey for the Stop the Bus Film Project.

Our vision is to create a movement that is too big to do by ourselves… it will take all of you.  Make sure you follow along our journey for how you can be a part of a massive united stand for our children later this year.

Ngā mihi o te tau hou
(Happy New Year)

Chris and Erinna

*the photo above was taken at Levin Adventure Park features art by Jonny 4Higher together with Horowhenua College students Monique Lang, Hannah Wedlock and Alexa Bryant.  This incredible mural represents 
represents “all aspects of what ties our community together  –  not just the landscape and environment, but to portray the fountain of knowledge from one generation to the next and to show the importance of education, imagination, understanding diversity and appreciating our culture and heritage.”

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