Make a Difference (MAD) is a practical leadership programme for 13-17 year olds. With a focus on helping to create a sustainable future, MAD has helped many young people achieve success for themselves and their communities.
Ahead of Children's Day on Sunday (6 March), OurAuckland recently caught up with some of our MAD alumni to find out how MAD has made a difference in their lives.
“Becoming a MADster helped me to become more confident in so many different areas. I'm currently studying at Lincoln University, and am trying to involve myself in all the different environmental groups here, which I wouldn't have done before attending MAD because I would have been too shy.
"MAD is so much fun, you hang out with cool people, learn from experts, and then get to put what you have learnt into practice.” – Rhanae Ngawaka, 19
“With help from MAD I found out about Teach First NZ, an organisation with a main aim to battle inequality in education by recruiting excellent graduates and professionals to go into low-decile schools and inspire young students to fulfill their potential.
"I was offered a spot with Teach First NZ in their 2017 cohort last year and am very excited to be a part of something that I am passionate about. I found that my passion was educating our youth. MAD made me realise this dream.” – Helen Tuitavake, 21
“MAD was amazing. I was Year 11 at the time, and I’d never been to a camp with people that I didn’t know. I was blown away by how friendly everyone was, and how many friends I made in such a short time.
"MAD showed me that there are a lot of environmental issues that need solving. One of the skills that I found very useful in educating and empowering people to take action is filmmaking. One of my films even won me a place at the Young Reporters for the Environment’s International Litter Less Conference in Nicosia, Cyprus.” – Michael Jessup, 18
“As soon as I heard the name ‘Make a Difference’ I knew it was an opportunity I couldn’t miss. Before, I used to think that there would be absolutely no way to change old habits.
"Especially at home, I never thought I’d be able to convince my parents to split up our single waste system into three (normal, recycling, and compost). I never thought that my fellow classmates would fill up our lunchtime environmental sessions, or that our school would make its annual Food Fair completely compostable. But it all happened!
"MAD empowered me to believe that, through a little bit of education and engagement, anyone and everyone can make a difference to their lives.” – Gauri Prabhakar, 17
“MAD was the first time I stepped out into a circle of new friends and people I looked up to, and these people went on to have a major influence in my life.
"During dinner conversations adults in the room would always ask me, 'so what do you want to be when you grow up?' I was always interested in the built environment, and I thought I wanted to be a roading engineer. MAD helped me understand more about myself to the point that I realised I actually wanted to be an urban planner.
"I recently started working in the Chief Planning Office at Auckland Council and I absolutely love it.” – Luke Carey, 22
“The main thing I’ve taken away from MAD is that anything is possible. I may only be one little teenager from rural north Auckland, but I learnt to remove the ‘only’ from that sentence. I am one little teenager from rural north Auckland who really can Make a Difference. Anyone can, and anything is possible.
"When we find a goal or a passion, I now know to cling onto it with everything I have and try to do whatever I can to help inspire someone, solve an issue, or even just pick up as much rubbish as I can in an hour.
"What I’ve taken away is nothing is impossible, it says so itself: Impossible = I’m possible!” – Nadine Tupp, 18
Auckland Council is now looking for Auckland high school students who are potential leaders to take part in the Make a Difference (MAD) Sustainability hui at Piha Mill Camp from April 27-29. Applications close Monday 14 March – visit the Auckland Council website to find out more.