A Te Awamutu community leader has created what he hopes will be a safe space for young people to thrive and meet.
“It is an opportunity for the youth of Te Awamutu to come out and have some fun, enjoy each other’s company, and leave whatever pressures they may be facing behind,” said St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church community leader, Jamie Budd.
Jamie, a father of eight, has been speaking with youth for over six months, asking them what they would want out of a youth group.
“There is not much point me telling them, mid 45, ‘hey let’s do this’. I want them to take ownership of it,” he said.
He is launching the youth group this week with the backing of St Andrew’s Church. Despite the religious affiliation, Jamie says that any young person aged 13 to 19 are welcome to join, regardless of their faith.
“We are not going to push faith or Christianity on them. I think it is better to just value and care for them,” he said.
He says there will be no judgement, bullying, drugs, or alcohol allowed in the group.
“We want them to know that every single person is valued, that we are all different.”
Jamie believes that having gone through Covid lockdown and having an over dependence on technology his group will encourage more grounded and authentic connections.
“This is just something different that gets them active, connecting and communicating,” he said.
Jamie was the associate pastor for Zion Church for four years before he joined St Andrew’s last year.
He said in previous youth groups, he would invite guest speakers, such as police, to speak with the youth.
“It will be a space where if they have any questions, they can ask them. If they want to know certain things, or hear different views and opinions, we will bring people in to talk about those different topics,” he said.
Jamie says working with people and helping them thrive is his passion.
He and his wife Sharni founded the charity Loving Arms seven years ago. They have about 20 volunteers who support new families by providing them with baby clothing and equipment.
The youth group’s first event will debut tomorrow (Friday), in the form of a quiz night at St Andrew’s Church. Jamie has created a Facebook page for it and plans to release a calendar of the group’s events soon.
“For me this is about building community,” he said.
“I don’t want to see young people fall through the cracks, I don’t want them stuck at home not doing anything on a Friday or Saturday night when there is an opportunity to gather everybody and have a bit of fun.”