For Christchurch-based Luke Siaki, working with youth is ‘a calling.’ It’s something he’s done for the last five years as a fulltime youth clinician with Enabling Youth. Now, as the founder of Rangatahi Creative, he is focussing on encouraging rangatahi to reach their full potential.

Established in July 2022 with the help of RUIA funding from Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu, Rangatahi Creative is a hub and a safe space for a dozen rangatahi to visit two nights a week, where they can learn new skills and gain self-confidence for their future outcomes.

“A lot of kids fall through the cracks after school,” says Luke.

“Some in fact, are missing school altogether and they may have become involved in theft or getting into fights. I wanted to create a hub to introduce them to positive activities that would encourage and inspire them to be the best they can be.”

Luke, who mentors the group with his friend Tiriati Dawson, is introducing rangatahi to videography, photography, barbering, podcasting, blogging, content creation, music production, gaming, streaming and arts and crafts.

“There are a heap of talented kids out there but they often don’t have the knowledge, the resources or the self-belief to know where to start. I wanted Rangatahi Creative to be a place where they could discover new opportunities and possibly bridge that gap between school to the workforce.”

A former fitness instructor/trainer at Canterbury Sports Performance Centre and a self-taught videographer, Luke runs his own freelance vidography business in conjunction with fulltime youth work. He says he simply sat down in the beginning asked himself what he would have wanted as a young person.

“I didn’t want to sit back and complain, I wanted to do something positive to bring out the best in kids who may not have always had the encouragement and the belief they need,” he says.

It’s been a win-win for everyone involved and Luke has been amazed at the early response. He says parents have been incredibly pleased and supportive of his venture and the rangatahi themselves are already building strong relationships within the group and developing an awareness of new skills.

In addition to exposure to new skills, rangatahi also have the opportunity to talk through any anxieties they may feel and Luke’s wife, Shanelle (Te Arawa), prepares kai for them.

“The hardest thing is always that there are many more kids out there who could benefit from programmes like this and because we have limits on the numbers we can take for our one-year course, I do find it very hard to turn others away,” Luke says.

In the meantime though, he is dreaming big – hoping for the day when he can expand and run his new programme fulltime; and he is grateful for the way RUIA funding has helped establish the initiative.

“We couldn’t have done this without them. We may have had the ideas but we didn’t have the resources and funding has enabled us to kit out our space with computers, couches, microphones, music tools and everything else we need.

“There’s nothing else like this in Christchurch and we have young people (aged 12-16) coming from as far away at Pines Beach to take part. It’s definitely helping kids keep out of trouble. It’s showing them a different way to be and it’s equipping them with skills that can help them decide what they want to do with their lives.”