Monday, June 5, 2017

Wakatika Ora and the tribe of Nga Mokai

Putting the brakes on substance addiction is a hard, constant and worthy battle. Drug addiction rips the heart out of individuals, families and societies, and fighting back needs to happen at every level. Two of my long-time mates, John Wareham and Denis O’Reilly, are part of a group of social warriors in New Zealand working with and for hard-to-reach and difficult-to-deal-with communities, notably gangs.

Wellington charity Consultancy, Advocacy and Research Trust (CART) travels the outlands of New Zealand society bringing hope and change to the long-term unemployed, prisoners and former prisoners, the mentally ill, alienated, disaffected, ostracized, impoverished, homeless and disenfranchised.

Fighting substance abuse demands courage, conviction and cash. I’m stoked to see CART have won an $800,000 grant from the government for an innovative two-year pilot initiative—Wakatika Ora (the canoe of the correct path to health) – to push back on substance addiction. Creativity and innovation have unreasonable power, and CART has built a reputation for thinking different through enlightened policies and strategies.

John Wareham (above right) is a global leadership guru, author of business books and novels, former New Yorker, prison educator. Denis O’Reilly is a social activist, business consultant, patched Black Power life member, community resilience developer, chronicler of life on the edge. Both men are philosophers working at the gritty end of society. Both tough nuts with hearts full of love. They met at a function I hosted in Auckland years ago to launch John’s book “How to Break Out of Prison” based on his experiences teaching communication skills to felons at New York’s Rikers Island Prison.

Under the programme, CART is starting at the community level. The approach is holistic, it levers leadership and it brings new personal development modules. They say “we see drug use as a symptom of deeper underlying causes, many of which are social, so we’re intending to innovate with our new personal development modules. If people make personal change then collectively they can change a community. It has been clearly demonstrated that we can’t stop supply but we believe we can reduce demand and thus reduce harm.”

Great change starts at the edge, the edge of reason, of hope, of dreams in flight. And as J.R.R Tolkien wrote in his popular battle of good and evil: “All that is gold does not glitter, Not all those who wander are lost.”