My name is Sally and I am writing the following on the behalf of my husband Mike and I. Our Son Jahvan is 13 years old, However when he first met Wa he had just turned 12 years old. Jahvan is from a loving home with a lot of support, However for some reason was a 12 year old boy who was out of control on drugs and alcohol, stealing regularly and causing property damage where ever he was. On one occasion Jahvan smashed our home up, smashing windows, walls and doors not to mention taking to me with a baseball bat and attempting to stab both his brother and I with a kitchen knife. On many occasion he has attempted suicide by hanging himself, drowning himself and a lot of self-harm with cutting. I recall pulling my son out of junky houses during the nights, drunk and in-co herent at times.
He was red flagged by local police as being very violent and known by first name. We would see or at least be talking with the police every second day and through some period’s daily due to Jahvan’s violent and law breaking behaviours. I wanted answers and understanding of how and why my beautiful son was so out of control, So I attended and completed many different parents courses and seeked help from many different organisations.
All programs and organisations gave up on my son including 3 state schools, which he was excluded from. After one of Jahvan’s escalations and being arrested by the police I marched into a Child safety centre, Told them everything, refused to pick my son up and signed my son over to them. This was the worst day of my life and I still cannot believe I done it. I had no other answers, I felt I had exhausted every avenue I could but most of all I feared for the safety of my family as Jahvan had threatened to to slit all of our throats whilst we sleep.
The department took Jahvan on and put him in a safe house where he had one on one attention from a support worker 24 hours a day. I spoke with him most nights, He struggled to understand why we were doing this. Five long months my son was in care for. Like I said above we had asked for help from so many services to no prevail. The first day we met Wa I know he could feel I was a mum screaming out for help, Jahvan was really rude and this ashamed me my son acted in this way.
This did not appear to bother Wa and in time we came to learn it was going to be Wa’s understanding, never give up, passionate attitude that would pave the way to getting our son and family back. Wa and his program has changed the way Jahvan responds to certain people and situations. He has taught him life skills and new coping strategies.
Jahvan does not deal with change well at all and it was made apparent early in the program this would set Jahvan off. Well now I can say he does do change well. Through the program he was exposed to this where Wa seen fit, He helped him to learn to deal with change and also with the challenges life in general brings. Wa runs a tight ship with “no crap” ,In saying that he is a caring and understanding man. My son today attends school every day and only absent if he is really sick. He is home every night and on weekends, He completes all of his chores, respects all of us as a family and people in the public.
This is all in a big way due to the help we received from Wa and the program he runs. We all need to stand by our children with the hope that there is the right help out there somewhere. Jahvan is wired differently, however with the right support, Never giving up and understanding we can all get to the other side. I would whole heartedly recommend Wa and his program to any child who has lost there way and also to any parent who has lost all or any hope in helping their son who seems un helpable. We all need a Wa in our lives, He cares and I must say his heart is in this. He has changed our family for the better and is the most positive role model for all our our kids. I have experienced all of the above regarding Wa first hand which has thankfully given us our son back.
Jahvan’s Mum and Dad
Michael Cabe has previously demonstrated a number of high risk, abusive and aggressive behaviours within the school and home environment. This has included him hitting others, using weapons, threatening others with weapons (including threatening to stab others with a large kitchen knife and saw off limbs with a wood saw). This behaviour was assessed as being linked to his emotional wellbeing. Michael’s behaviours resulted in him being isolated by his peers which limited his opportunity to develop appropriate social skills and relationships with others. Michael struggled when challenged in the school environment and often preferred to operate within his own comfort zone. Michael would regularly attempt to avoid school and was regularly absent from school due to school refusal.
Since Michael’s engagement in the program, he has made significant progress in relation to developing his social skills, relationships and understanding of others, understanding of his own civic responsibilities and is more settled in his school and home environment. Michael has had more success in building relationships with others and his peers. Michael has made vast improvements in how best to deal with others and can now have a disagreement or feel hurt by someone, talk it through with adults (at placement & school), see things from other’s perspectives and be able to forgive and have alternative ways to deal with that situation if it resurfaces. This has assisted Michael to move on quickly from a disagreement rather than refuse to engage and ignore others.
Michael’s willingness to attend the program has increased with him looking forward to the day ahead and speaking positively about his mentors (Wa and Glen). Michael has recently demonstrated a keen interest in further developing his fitness and is more able to participate in physical activities. Michael has also spoken with adults at length about his interest in helping others (in particular animals) and expressed that he is keen to work with injured or abused animals as he feels that this is an important role. Michael is developing a great deal of insight into the world around him, how he can contribute as a young adult in society and how he can give back to his community through assisting others.
Michael has indicated that he feels safe and well supported in the program due to the small group size and non- threatening environment. Michael feels he is able to be the most successful when the adults in his life are supportive and understand him and the program has provided him with this and an opportunity to be successful.
Child Safety officer
I have personally been involved in a three day youth camp run by Watene Waenga.
His understanding, compassion and empathy combine to create a fun, structured and learning environment with appropriate consequences following infractions of the guidelines which are clearly explained at the beginning of the camp.
I found him to be an excellent role model because of his unconditional love for the boys and his firm boundaries.
Antony Geeves MA (NYU psych) IIBE Dip.Ed. BFA
Watene Waenga has been employed as a Youth Worker at the Toogoolawa School since July 2013.
Until the end of the second term in 2014 Wa worked in one of our alternative classes as part of a team of three, one teacher and two youth workers, supporting 20 disengaged boys aged 12 to 15.
Since that time Wa has worked with our most violent and disengaged boys in our ‘Mobile Program.’ The 12 boys in this program are supported by Wa and a fellow youth worker. The program is based on the school’s Educare philosophy which stresses the development of good character. To that end students are given opportunities to: meditate daily, reflect on their behaviour and how it impacts others, prepare preservative and sugar free meals, take part in restorative justice circles, give back to the community via community service projects, enhance their health and fitness as well as participate in hands-on literacy and numeracy lessons designed to motivate, challenge and engage.
None of this would be possible without the right role model leading the program.
Wa is an excellent role model and mentor to all Toogoolawa boys.
His calm but firm manner reassures the boys that they will be respected and listened to but also that they will be held accountable for their actions.
Wa was also responsible for instigating a camp program initially for his class but eventually for all Toogoolawa classes at a property near Toowoomba.
The camps that our students have successfully participated in are the model for Wa’s Youth Transformations Program that he runs in his own time. Wa uses these camps as bonding sessions for the boys and staff.
They have been particularly successful for our many students who are in the care of the state as well as other boys who have suffered major trauma and attachment issues. Boys are given strategies to resolve conflict that doesn’t involve anger. The activity based therapies increase self-esteem and the importance of teamwork.
The school is in a position to subsidise the cost of these camps for our students but unfortunately students in the wider community miss out on the opportunity because most families cannot afford the money.
Any amount of money from community grants that allow boys in need to participate in the Youth Transformations Program will be well spent.
You have a proven program that works along with a capable facilitator in Wa.
Wa is very passionate about working with youth and understands the urgent need for early intervention with boys who have come from traumatised and troubled backgrounds.