Stories MATES Stories MATES and Merchant Shoes – a Perfect Match Back in 2014, New Zealand shoe company ‘Overland’ launched a wonderful initiative called the ‘Young Hearts Project’. This project was established to assist young people in our community, especially those who are struggling in life. Overland – now renamed ‘Merchant 1948’ – has been partnering with MATES Junior since it was launched in 2014. A company with heart, their website says: “Too many young people struggle with the challenges of life. The Young Hearts Project, founded in 2014 by our Director Shane Anselmi, recognises the need to provide opportunities for young people to develop skills and resilience and feel empowered to deal with these challenges.” Anselmi himself says: “Young Hearts Project started one day when I stumbled across some statistics on New Zealand youth suicide rates. Although New Zealand in my opinion is one of the greatest places to live, the suicide rate for youth was one of the highest rates in the world per capita. I wondered how we could use Deuce to support youth, empower them and build resilience.” Anselmi began working with three established community partners (including Great Potentials), to make sure that the funds raised through the Young Hearts Project were utilised to support those most in need. Through the Young Hearts Project, $2 from every pair of Deuce shoes sold in New Zealand goes directly toward helping provide empowerment, support, inspiration and hope to young New Zealanders. So far Merchant’s customers and Deuce shoes have raised over $1.5 million for programmes which focus on mentoring, emotional support and value-based learning for young people. Here at Great Potentials, we are incredibly thankful to have the ongoing support of Merchant, Deuce sneakers and the Young Hearts Project. Our young MATES mentees benefit from more than just the funding which makes programme delivery possible – Merchant gets involved in other ways as well. Last year at our epic ‘Uni for a Day’ members of the Deuce team came and delivered a workshop on ‘Dreaming for the Future’ with our young people. Staff shared stories of overcoming adversity from their own experience and got alongside mentees and helped them create their own ‘dream boards’. Over the years, some mentees and mentors have also been blessed with a pair of awesome Deuce sneakers. Designed by Kiwis for Kiwis, these sneakers are comfy and stylish. This year, one lucky mentor every month will be nominated to receive a free pair of Deuce sneakers - and hundreds of young mentees will begin to realise their potential, thanks to Young Hearts Project. Thank you Merchant and Deuce Sneakers for helping us release the potential in young lives through MATES mentoring and tutoring.