The CACTUS programme sits at the heart of the Wairoa Young Achievers Trusts work in Wairoa.
This elite 8 week leadership and life skills training programme for young people, aged between 12 to 18 years of age, is run through Wairoa College with several groups graduating each year.
Carefully targeted life skills training, career education and 1:1 mentoring is offered on courses run at three different levels – Basic, Extreme or Advanced. All courses begin with an early morning hour-long training session three times a week based on physical training exercises developed for New Zealand armed forces personnel. This PT is followed by hot showers, a hearty breakfast and then coaching and goal-setting activities – individual and group – all finishing in time to start school for the day.
CACTUS provides youth with the opportunity to improve their self-management, time-management and self-discipline. The courses are both physically and mentally challenging and trainees are duty-bound to meet minimum standards of behaviour and achievement in specific areas. Tremendous commitment, passion and drive are needed to meet these expectations. For many trainees the difficulties are huge and the support received from volunteers is crucial to their success.
On the last day of training – “The Longest Day” – participants demonstrate personal strength and teamwork skills to achieve a series of tough individual and group challenges. The end of the course is celebrated with a special graduation event for trainees and their families, the wider CACTUS support crew and invited guests.
CACTUS is well regarded for its success at honing skills and attitudes young people need to play productive, fulfilling roles in society. Courses are typically led by current or former police officers, fire service or army personnel. There is a huge personal investment and commitment on the part of dedicated CACTUS instructors and mentors who actively support trainees to overcome the difficulties they each face. Partnerships forged with schools, community agencies and businesses provide goods and services in-kind, access to training facilities and equipment, and amenities for showers and breakfast. CACTUS attracts volunteers from a range of professional, cultural and social backgrounds. A core group of volunteers helps run the fitness programme and provide support to instructors and trainees by preparing breakfasts, organising speakers and travel, maintaining uniforms and setting up equipment. Extraordinary passion and dedication from the community’s CACTUS supporters is evident throughout the course but especially on “The Longest Day”.