Youth voice – Rising to the challenge

Kia kaha, kia maia, kia manawanui, which means ‘be strong, be brave, be steadfast’, is a whakataukī (Maori proverb) that I think is a fitting slogan for this Covid era.
The times we are living in usher in a new kind of strength. For young people, particularly those at high school or university, studying at home can be challenging.

Not being able to socialise in person with friends and peers can be difficult and lead to feelings of loneliness. The uncertainty and instability of how tomorrow is going to turn out can be worrying.

I manage a youth mentoring programme and get the privilege and joy of hearing how young people who have faced significant challenges in their life, feel cared for, well supported and inspired from journeying alongside a mentor.

One of the focus areas for our mentors in recent times has been on how can we encourage our young people to look for ‘the learning moments’. These can happen spontaneously in everyday conversation and can be extracted from the events we experience.

The question I would pose to the young, and the not-so-young alike, is how can we can apply this Maori proverb in this Covid era of uncertainty and instability? 

Kia kaha, be strong. There are many learning moments that can actually help build strength of character and develop a foundation of resilience. This may involve being more adaptable, open minded and seeing obstacles as stepping stones.

Kia maia, be brave. It is important to be intentional about facilitating a culture of courage, over a culture of complacency. I know of young people who have found the uncertainty particularly challenging in terms of finding work, however they have not remained complacent, but rather applied themselves to different creative projects, such as writing books and even bravely submitting them for publishing. As my mother would say – “feel the fear and do it anyway”!

Kia manawanui, be steadfast. It is easy to be discouraged by circumstances and uncertainty. However, perseverance and positivity will help pave the path forward. Aristotle said, “Good habits at youth make all the difference.” So, for a young person, when it could be tempting to switch off and binge watch Netflix instead of attending an online class, remember that this is the time to dig a bit deeper and develop habits that will set you up well for a lifetime of diligence and perseverance.

Learning moments exist around every corner, and applying this Maori proverb, with grace and care, may just provide a good framework for response.