For many young Kiwis, the lure of gang culture can be overwhelming. But one former Auckland constable thinks there's a better way, and it involves basketball on wheels.
It's called the Guardian – a fully mobile, purpose-built basketball setup. It's worth more than $90,000 and folds out the back of a trailer, complete with a professional-grade court.
"We can roll into any area, any street, any school and let the youth of New Zealand experience a world-class facility, without charge," says Glen Green, CEO of charitable foundation There's a Better Way.
During his time as a police officer in Mt Roskill, Mr Green used basketball as a way of building trust with local youth. The Guardian basketball system is an extension of that.
"It's that opportunity to be able to get to know the youth on a grassroots level, build a relationship with them, using sport as a pathway; and then once you get to know the youth, then you can tackle some of the deeper issues."
Recently the Guardian was at Rongomai School in south Auckland. Principal Matt Williams says it reaffirms what the school tries to teach its students.
"Making those right decisions, choosing the right direction, choosing the right path, taking risks – not being afraid to take risks you know," says Mr Williams.
"Dream big, because sometimes what they see outside in the community is not great – they need to realise there's a bigger world out there."
Mr Williams says there should be more charities like There's a Better Way. In the past three years Mr Green's foundation has reached more than 20,000 young people, from schools in Auckland to prisons in the South Island.
"I just think that we can do better as a community," he says.
"I believe it's not just up to the police, it's not just up to the Government – this is a community issue, and the only that way we can tackle this is together. And you know through basketball, people laughed at me when I first presented this idea – no one's laughing now."
And Mr Green has a message for young people who may be tempted by gangs.
"Alcohol, weapons, drugs: it's not the way. It's just going to end in death and violence. Why don't you come and practice basketball, play basketball, challenge on the court. Challenge on the system here you know, bring out your skills. It brings teamwork together, a sense of belonging. And fight on the court – if you lose, you go home and practice, and that's it."
But despite its success, the future of the Guardian is uncertain. Mr Green needs more funding to keep the programme going.
And with 150 schools on the waiting list for a visit, he reckons it would be money well spent.
source: newshub archive