Rangatahi development camp changes lives for at-risk teens

By Jessica Tyson

A new rangatahi development camp has started in Tai Tokerau to help improve the lives of at-risk teen boys.

Camp Oasis, in Maungaturoto, is run by Odin Robinson and Jake Hiini, who use their own experiences to help lead the boys to a better pathway.

Hiini says, “People like me and Odin, who have lived experience from going through our own traumas and our own addictions and whatnot, to help these youth, let them know that they’re not alone and that they can look up to a new type of big homie because that’s what they say a lot, so that’s pretty cool.”

Robinson says Camp Oasis is a part of the Oasis Foundation and is for 13 to 16-year-olds.

"What we do is we run youth development camps aimed for rangatahi at risk. We just bring them here to this nice place on the Kaipara Harbour and we just give them the time of their lives," Robinson says.

“About a third of the boys here are from Oranga Tamariki. A lot of them are involved in Youth Court, CYFS, that sort of background and so we’re really pleased to have them here and connect with them.”

Hiini says he and Robinson run the camps to supply the young men with a safe environment.

“Growing up myself without a father I  had role models in the wrong areas in the wrong ways of life," Hiini says.

“So to give these boys who are making their way through the system a shot, like a way forward with a supportive network from me and the bro is really what gives this job meaning for me."

Hiini and Robinson lead a group session about happiness. Source: File

Some of the activities at the camp include kayaking, fishing, spotlight, bonfires, cooking, cross country and more. Robinson says the activities they pride themselves on most are the group sessions when they wānanga and kōrero about emotions and feelings.

Hiini says, “Growing up in schools we learned about maths, we learned about English, we learned about history [but there was] minimal kaupapa like culture and minimal talk about emotions and what’s going on for us. When we are able to share our emotions and our feelings and be vulnerable with one another we are able to build that connection.”

Robinson says on the first day of the camp they get together with the boys to create goals.

“Once we understand what they want to reach and their goals, then we can provide and do everything we can to help them achieve their goals. For example one of our boys wants to be a mechanic and so we’ve done a deal with him so if he gets his NCEA and stays in school we’ll help him get a mechanic's apprenticeship.”

Soljah Mintodobbs, Max Foley and Gabriel Elkabbany. Source: File

Max Foley and Gabriel Elkabbany have both been on the camp and enjoy spending time with the others.

“I just like the people here and everyone’s got different skills. You can be honest about everything and no one judges you. You can say whatever you want and no one can judge you for that,” they say.

Brothers Soljah and Kaos Mintodobbs say they enjoy working with Robinson and Hiini.

“They can help us if we’re feeling low or up or and dramas and they relate to the stuff we’ve been through and they give good advice.”

Robinson says, “This is really meaningful for me that not only do I get to work alongside my brother Jake but I was a troubled youth when I was younger and so to be where I’m at now is really a dream, to speak to these boys and the next generation and really do my part in creating positive change.”