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Feel Good Friday: Alicia's Story

Our Deuce Sneakers brand is one that believes in supporting and giving back to our local community, so from every pair of full-price Deuce sneakers sold, $5 goes towards The Young Hearts Project. Through the work of the Young Hearts Project, we support organisations and charities that do great things for kiwis, helping, shaping and positively changing the lives of others. One of those charities is the MATES organisation, which is a programme that mentors youth in New Zealand.  The work of MATES is lowering the rising rates of suicide, family violence, negative behaviour and depression. Today, we hear a story from Alicia Kapa, a mentor in the MATES programme and learn just what this mentorship means to her.

 

A passion for youth

 

Alicia is a third-year student of Criminology and Māori Studies, and through her studies she found a passion for helping young people discover their potential.  Alicia has Cerebral Palsy, so she knew that she had a lot to give young people and knew they could learn a lot from her, but just didn’t know where to start. At first, Alicia thought it would be difficult to get a job doing something she was really passionate about because of her physical disability but was prompted to join the MATES Charitable Trust by a friend. MATES is a Trust that offers mentorship to youth and gives individuals the support they need, so this was something Alicia jumped at the opportunity to do. 

 

Before MATES Alicia didn’t have confidence when interacting with others, because she didn’t know how people would react to her when they first met. But after her first session of mentoring with mates, Alicia was excited for more. When Alicia and her mentee first met, her mentee was incredibly shy, which made it difficult for her to make friends; she lacked confidence in herself as well as her schoolwork. But from the first session Alicia had with her mentee, she felt that they connected and formed a bond quickly.  “It was a little quiet at first, but I knew she had a lot to say, so I started to ask questions about herself to gain her trust and build a relationship with her.”

 

To strengthen her social connections, Alicia worked with another mentor and mentee pair so that her mentee interacted with others through the MATES programme and was able to build friendships.  As the year progressed, Alicia helped with her schoolwork, but not by doing things for her. Instead, when they worked on areas such as math, she would encourage and guide her to figure out the answers herself by asking her questions that made her think through problems. Speeches were an awesome way to boost her mentees self-worth and literacy together. At first, practicing her speeches was a task completed quickly and quietly, but after a few attempts she became clearer and more assured. Breaking through her shyness, her mentee made it to the speech semifinals. 

 

“I was very proud of her for this massive accomplishment, as I knew how difficult it was for her to talk in front of people when we first met. Supporting my mentee to develop her academic and personal confidence was an awesome experience,” says Alicia.  Looking back on the programme, Alicia recognises both the changes within herself and also in her mentee. Embracing new experiences and not giving up if things aren’t perfect the first time, growing together is one thing she’s taken away from this experience. "I grew in confidence within myself and I am more patient with people. I realized that not everyone sees things the same, and that it is important to try different approaches to help others understand in a way that makes sense to them. MATES also opened my eyes to how fortunate I am to have the life I have.”

 

“MATES showed me that my physical abilities have nothing to do with the amount of support I can give people. This really built my confidence and made me believe that I can do anything I want to do if I get myself out there.” Alicia’s inspiring testimony is one of many that sheds light into the life changing work that’s aided by The Young Hearts Project. Remember, when buying any full-price pair of Deuce sneakers, $5 per sale goes towards these programmes.