Youth Week 2020

Youth Week PosterEvery year the Ministry of Youth Development declares a “Youth Week” to celebrate New Zealand’s young people, their creativity, innovation and strengths and to amplify their voices.

The theme for Youth Week 2020 (May 9-17) was voted for by young people who chose the theme: “E korero ana mātou. E whakarongo ana koutou? We are speaking. Are you listening?”

Traditionally during Youth Week young people lead public events in their community but of course, that won’t be possible this year. While 2019 will probably be remembered for the climate change rallies led by youth, this year will most likely be remembered for the rahui (lockdown) and Covid-19.

The MYD said in a recent email: “Our young people are still speaking, perhaps not as visibly in the current season. Our challenge is about how we are listening, with our ears, eyes, hearts and spirits. More than ever Aotearoa, New Zealand needs the voices of young people, their innovation and open ideas, to lead us into the future.”

We at Great Potentials value the voices of our young people and the leadership contribution they make to our MATES Mentoring and Tutoring programme. We have asked our MATES team what they want us to know about the impact of Covid-19 on their lives, on their whanau and communities and what their hopes are for a post-Covid New Zealand.

We are listening.

How has Covid 19 affected you as a young person - your work, your life, your family, your community?

Peter, MATES Team Member & Law student:

“The pandemic and the lockdown that followed slowed things down for me. Overall, I became time-rich. Work, community activities and Church obligations stopped and I was given so much time to think about my life properly.

I was given so much time to think about whether I am really happy, or if I was placing my value in always being needed from my community, my Church and of course, work. This was a luxury I never had having lived a fast life where I was always busy and always had to be somewhere.  

Since the lockdown I have learned so much about myself and my family. The things I have learned are priceless and I would have never discovered these things living in the fast-norm that we were used to.

 As for my community, I think the pandemic exposed a lot of things such as the inequality in our communities. My family and I volunteered at St. Vincent De Paul Society once a week during the Level 4 lockdown. Here we saw the demand for food packages increase from 200 a week to 200 a day. This is worrying as we are not the only organisation delivering food parcels, which have become essential for struggling families all over Auckland.” 

Sally, MATES Team Member & Psychology student:

"I am Korean; my immediate family and I are dispersed globally. My parents live in Korea, my brother in Germany and I, here. Initially I was really worried about them all. My parents are in their 60’s and I’m aware that the virus is more dangerous to those who are older. I didn’t want them to go outside in case they were exposed to it. I was worried about my brother in Germany in case he experienced racial attacks over there. He doesn’t have a lot of connections over there like I do, here. I was quite concerned about him.

I’m extremely grateful that I still got to work during lockdown. Working at home hasn’t been easy though. Because of the uncertainty outside, even though I had work to complete and not much else to do, I couldn’t focus. I was restless and ended up procrastinating with housework to keep myself preoccupied. Work was and is important but it also seems a bit down my priority list compared to life before the lockdown. 

My life in lockdown is what I imagined I always wanted - more time. I have loads of it. But this isn’t how I imagined it. I have managed to be more productive with things I couldn’t do before but that seems insignificant compared to being able to catch a bus to the beach or wherever I want to go, and meeting my friends in person. I really miss going out to buy my favourite bubble tea drink as well. I also do not own a car nor drive hence I’ve had to do my grocery shopping on foot which is a much bigger hassle than usual."

ConnorConnor, MATES Team Member & Counselling student:

"Covid has impacted every aspect of my life, work, study, friendships and routines. The first few weeks were difficult to adjust to and the unknown of the future was difficult to get my head around. I think being able to focus on the things I can control has helped me settle down again. I can't really comment on my family and community other that there is now a disconnect between them. My family live in another city and the community has needed to keep its distance from one another. There are ways that we can still connect with family through technology and I think that is more important than ever to feel connected to those who are important to us."

Harota, MATES Team Member & Engineering Student:

“Covid-19 has effected the norm. I consider myself lucky to live in a safe place. There’s food, warmth and terrible WiFi but I’m sure people have been worse off. It feels quite isolating to be in your bubble only. Work has been fine to do from home, but Uni is a struggle as I have never been a self-led type of learner. I lean heavily on attending my lectures and tutorials to gain better understanding so that has been a learning curve."

Sonya Masoe
Sonya, MATES Team Leader:

"Covid-19 has impacted many aspects of my life in a number of ways. I have been working from home for the past 6 weeks, which has been a new reality for many. I have found that I am struggling to draw the line between ‘work’ and ‘home’. I often find myself not being able to shut off work completely because it has almost all become one in the same environment.

So many things are happening at home so at times it feels a bit chaotic, my sister and I are set up working from home, my partner is an essential worker, my mother is in and out of home volunteering as a food parcel delivery driver, my brother in-law is a professional Rugby player who is training multiple times a day. On top of that, my sister has two daughters who we all share the responsibility of looking after, while still trying to do our jobs to the best we can. It has been a real learning experience, but I am just thankful that our MATES team are still able to continue working from home.

I volunteer at the Society of St Vincent De Paul when I have time to, and I have been finding hours during the week after work to assist with food parcel deliveries. From this experience, I have seen the demand for necessities such as food has increased hugely since Lockdown. The impact this had had on our community is huge and it will most likely be like this for a long while. It is a very sad reality for many families but I have been so encouraged by the amount of work community outreach groups are doing to ensure people are receiving their essential needs."

Kia Kaha New Zealand

What positive changes in New Zealand society would you hope to see as a result of Covid-19 and the lockdown - and do you think anything will change long term? 

“One of the changes that I hope continues is the way we treat our essential workers. We saw the value of our Supermarket workers, Nurses, Doctors, Factory workers, Cleaners, Social Workers, Teachers, Lecturers etc. When our society froze, we needed them to continue to be of service to us. The pandemic exposed.

I hope our care for the environment continues – there was a drop in pollution during the lockdown. However after Level 3 opened fast food restaurants, we began to slip back into our old ways of harming the environment. 

Another thing that I hope continues is the way we treat each other. I have experienced the kindness of strangers in my community who understand that we’re in this together.
Finally, I hope that we can respond to the issues that were exposed during the lockdown. We saw a rise in need for assistance for basic food and family items and also in domestic violence."


 "I hope we all become more grateful with the freedom that we had and will have once Covid19 is eliminated.

I hope we all have realized what is truly important in life and do not forget what we should prioritise even after this finishes.

I hope we realised that there are a lot of vulnerable people out there (eg. homeless and socio-economically unstable) and realise that we managed to help them, meaning, we can continue to do so - I hope we don’t stop, just because we get out of high alert levels and lockdown.

In the long term, I think the economy will go back to normal just as we went back to normal after the Swine Flu. The unfortunate thing is that people may still be redundant after this all dies down and this will affect their families.

I think psychologically, a lot might change in the long run. Children and young people that have experienced this as trauma may not show their symptoms of anxiety or depression for a while. But it will affect them. Uncertainty and instability might have also affected a lot of adults and they need help."


Connor: "I think generally the response from all New Zealanders has been positive. Taking this thing seriously and banding together has really changed the outcome of this pandemic when you compare us to other countries. I feel a lot more proud to call myself a New Zealander as we are presented more positively on the world stage- it feels good to be an example of how to do things the right way.

Moving forward though, there is a great bit of advice going around on the internet that says ‘as we are gearing up to return to normal, it's important to think about what kind of normal we want to return to’. For me, that means taking this opportunity to break bad or unsustainable habits, support our communities more and be more aware of those who might need our help in the community. I hope as a country New Zealand will re-evaluate what is important to us and use this as an opportunity for growth."


Harota: “For me a positive change would be returning back to some sense of normalcy although I doubt NZ will ever return to that. Covid19 has really changed the way society runs. I think it’s important to get small town NZ up and running again. So in Level 2 I plan to see what way I can support those small businesses and I think a lot of kiwis will be thinking the same in terms of eating at local restaurants and visiting our own tourist spots since we can’t travel anywhere else etc.”

Sonya Masoe

 "There is quite a lot of changes that I have already seen in our society that I hope will stay for the future. I think the first thing that has stood out for me is the kindness and compassion that people have towards one another. Covid-19 is likely to affect any one of us. It is not biased, classist, racist or sexist – anyone can catch it.

I believe that this truth has meant that people are a lot more compassionate and empathic towards others because every person is at risk and, in this particular instance, we are all going through the same thing. Although we as a nation have a long way to go in understanding inequity and the underlying factors, this particular instance has allowed for us to be more understanding and empathetic towards those who have been directly impacted by this crisis. I hope that this will then shift the way we look at other forms of inequity and how we can be more understanding towards others’ situations.

Our attitudes towards Essential workers has shifted in the most positive way. I guess this also ties in with the respect I mentioned earlier – People are much more appreciative and respectful of our Essentials workers, from Doctors, Nurses, Scientists, Supermarket workers, Foodbank workers, Deliveries and more, all working through the crisis, putting their health at risk to ensure the nation is getting the essentials we need. We couldn’t survive without them. I hope that this shift and attitude towards our essential workers and all workers remains for long term and that we as people understand that we all have a part to play in our society.

Lastly, I think that this experience has helped us to strip back from our old habits and live a more simple life. We have taken on new hobbies and learnt new skills. People now have to cook and prepare their own meals and not rely on fast food. More and more people are focusing on their health by working out more, going for walks and eating better. Families are spending more time together, playing board games and having shared movie nights and much more! These are all good habits that have been picked up over lockdown. Of course a movie date or fun night out with friends is all well and good, but I guess what we have learnt is that we can be a lot more creative with the way we interact with each other, and also means we can save money as well which is never a bad thing. I do hope that people can continue on with even some of these things in the long term."

The new team of Mentors for 2020 - training before the lockdown 

What's next for MATES?

Sonya Masoe

 "In terms of MATES specifically, Covid-19 has been a huge barrier for us to move forward. Since our programme is based in schools and hires mentors from tertiary institutions, it was very difficult to get anything moving once we got into Lockdown. Since then, we have tried coming up with alternative ways to deliver the programme and have considered providing mentoring via online video conferencing.

Although this can be a suitable temporary option, the need for face-to-face interaction and relationship building seems to be even more important than before. One of our main obstacles was the uncertainty of everything – when would schools be reopening and in what timeframe? Would schools be allowing external agencies to access school? Do schools want us this year? There were quite a lot of questions that we had to answer before we made any progress. Now that we have a bit more certainty of what the schools are wanting and what we can do in lower alert levels, we are now able to progress in some areas of our processes.

We have recently just reopened our mentor applications and are continuing on with interviews and mentor/mentee pairing. We as a team care deeply about young people and we have so many concerns about the implications Covid19 has on their lives. We understand that many of our young people are currently bearing a lot of pressure to help at home whether it be financially, or helping with caring for other family members, all while trying to learn and study from home.

Then there is the question of resources, learning environment, immediate care needs and more. This has really redefined what MATES would mean for us and all who are connected to the programme. We hope that we will be able to start MATES in all of our schools as soon as we can because we know that now, more than ever, young people need support."

We are looking for people who want to become part of the MATES story.

If you are a tertiary student studying in Auckland and want to find out more about being a mentor, please click the link below: