The Rotorua Community Youth Centre is a youth-one-stop-shop providing development workshops, support for transitioning into employment and health services specifically for young people. Their strap line is ‘Enabling youth to reach their full potential by helping them to be happy, healthy, safe, and moving towards a great future’.

Prior to the lockdown the centre was running over 15 workshops for Rotorua youth – and they had just launched a by-youth-for-youth community radio station, Power 88.3 Rotorua.

Steve Holmes, the Youth Development Manager, says that most of these workshops use creativity to engage young people – programmes such as Music Factory; Performance Factory; Dance Factory; Radio Factory; Vlogging Factory; and a DJ Factory. “We know creativity works, it gets them engaged and it teaches them basic skills such as problem solving, team-work, communication skills, self-belief and a positive attitude – all skills that an employer is looking for.”

At the beginning of Alert Level 4 his team selected four programmes to go online, providing opportunities for young people to connect during isolation.

These online programmes were developed in response to the Covid-19 pandemic to increase connectedness, build the confidence, creativity, and resilience of young people, and to create a platform for young people to develop skills over the lockdown period.

The priority was the radio station, but in a modified form. Power 88.3 Rotorua live broadcasts 24/7 and during lockdown was run by the young people who had completed the first 6-week radio workshop from their own homes. Steve says that the aim of this programme is to give rangatahi a platform to express themselves and communicate with their peers, whānau and others in the broadcast area – exploring their ideas, opinions, culture, values and identity. The station also regularly broadcast Covid-19 alert level messages and promoted the Rotorua Community Youth Centre services.

Then there was an online Game Build and Live Stream Workshop which created a space/platform for young people to develop their game building skills over the lockdown period. The workshop taught them how to create custom maps and custom ‘game modes’ with one of the most popular games. The building process could be live-streamed and once completed their map is tested at the end of the week, by the group as well as by special guests. The game has also been live streamed to the public via the centre’s Facebook page. This online game build programme aimed to develop teamwork, cooperation, communication; encourage craftsmanship and offer youth a sense of achievement.

The Online Music and Rap Workshop provided music lessons for various instruments and rap lyric writing and recording, teaching participants to create and record pieces which will later be mixed, and a track created. Lyric writing aims to help young people express emotions that are important to them, provides a forum for real connection with young people in isolation, and builds motivation and confidence.

Finally, there as been an Online Video Recording Programme which provides a platform for young people to develop their vlogging skills. They were asked to create a 30 second plus video per week documenting their everyday life in a way that encourages others.

Since the lockdown levels finished young people have been able to carry on with the online workshops or integrate into other online or face-to-face workshops within the Rotorua Youth Centre.