West Tech Mobile

Trusts' funding helps students find niche

Peitala used to stay behind after class to finish her assignments on the school computer. Or she would tackle the tasks on the tiny screen of her phone.

That was before she learned to refurbish donated laptops and computers at Zeal’s tech programme.

Peitala has graduated with her own big-screen laptop from the programme for rangatahi aged 10-18 in The West. She has also carved out a new career.

Today she is one of the talented young computer technicians working at Zeal, a youth development charity in Henderson. There Peitala thrives on helping other rangatahi to upskill in the digital domain. “A huge moment for me is when I see the students’ confidence grow,” she says. “I feel happy that after the eight-week programme, when they take home the laptop, they’ll know what to do to fix any upcoming problems.”

She relishes the challenge of fixing things by herself and multi-tasking, having once refurbished six devices at the same time.

Gaining these real-world skills has bolstered the confidence of the youngster who admits she never used to put her hand up at school even when she knew the answers. “I’m proud of how much I’ve changed since the programme,” Peitala says, “the biggest being I now feel comfortable expressing different versions of myself instead of being confined to only one thing as I felt at school.”

Zeal Digital Director Chris Winder says he is grateful for The Trusts’ support which has created opportunities like this for Peitala and her peers. “I feel really lucky to have a front-row seat to their journey and to be witnessing the origin stories of our future leaders in tech, and that’s all thanks to The Trusts,” he says. “Peitala’s story couldn’t have happened without your funding and your partnership.”

The West Tech initiative is a partnership between Auckland Council’s innovation unit the Western Initiative, Zeal, and The Trusts, which has provided funding support.

Thanks to a two-year grant from The Trusts, Zeal has helped many rangatahi in The West with limited access to devices by learning to refurbish donated laptops as part of a weekly tech club. Since the project’s debut, 413 rangatahi have graduated from this programme with their own free devices. This has led to 1,032.5 kg of e-waste being diverted from landfills, Chris says.

Response to refurbish-a-thon events has been overwhelmingly positive, he says. “The most common feedback praised the cool tutors, fun vibes and the food,” he says, “reinforcing that an intervention like this can be a lot more effective if it feels removed from regular schooling.”

The team discovered that a new student, with the support of a tuakana (older sibling or cousin) and Zeal’s facilitators, could learn to refurbish a computer in just one day, Chris says. “This has enabled us to provide access to this programme and free laptops to the entire senior school at Prospect Primary, all of Middle School West Auckland’s Pohutukawa campus and three-quarters of their junior campus, and nearly triple the number of young people accessing this programme.”

Zeal West is a dedicated youth centre near West Wave. It’s a place where young people can get together, learn new skills and socialise. The centre features a dance space, recording studios, and a digital design lab. It runs such creative programmes as dance, music and competitive gaming.

Rangatahi aged 11 to 18 can hang out at Zeal’s drop-in sessions where they can glean a sense of belonging and connect with trained youth workers. The team is there to boost mental health and well-being by helping youngsters develop their strengths, build resilience, set goals, and plan for their future.

After building connections, youth workers encourage rangatahi to join in-house programmes for even more support. These include leadership, creative arts, and work readiness courses as well as running youth-led community initiatives and events.

A not-for-profit organisation, Zeal relies on fundraising and donations to continue its vital services. Covering payroll expenses proves to be challenging. But a $10,000 grant from Your West Support Fund has given Zeal a welcome boost. This has gone towards the wages of some youth workers who run the in-demand drop-in spaces.