Whanau Ora, Mahana: The Truth, The Love, The Light - My Journey To Healing

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November 7, 2022

From anger management issues, to a vicious cycle of drugs, gangs, and prison, I have lived a rough life with a rough outlook. But then my children were taken into care and I had to fight with everything I had to gain full custody. It’s been a long and tough journey, but I now have my kids full time, a new outlook on life, faith and self-love.

From the age of six, I’ve had anger management issues. I’ve always been an angry person.

I grew up in a rough household with a father who hit me most of my life. I had huge issues inside my head and heart and I could never figure out how to control my emotions.

Life continued to spiral for me and I was in jail at 15-years-old. I spent the next 8-9 years in and out of prison living in a cycle, a constant cycle of drugs, gangs, and prison with no self-love and no self-value.

I covered my face in tattoos in complete disrespect. I figured if I was going to be treated like an animal and act like one, I may as well look like one too.

I didn’t let anyone see what was going on beneath the surface. I just didn’t care enough.

A couple of years ago I was living at a gang pad and constantly high on methamphetamine. I thought I was living the life with my brothers – this was what I wanted to do with my life. I lived like this for almost 10 years.

But then one day my Mum contacted me to tell me my sons were in Oranga Tamariki care. I knew I had to return home but I’d dedicated my life to my brothers and I felt so lost. I didn’t know what to do.

I’ll put it this way. I was on an island and on that island was a jail and a gang, and on the other island was a building and one day I started swimming because I could see a sign on the building. Sometimes I’d look back but eventually I got too far away to swim back, and before I knew it I couldn’t see the other island anymore.

The sign said Oranga Tamariki. I turned up to there but I was angry. All I could think was that these people have taken my kids. As angry as I was, I sat down with the manager and she told me what I needed to do to get my kids back.

Getting my kids back was all that mattered to me so I did what she asked. I engaged with Nga Kete, South Alive, the Salvation Army, and started living at the Grand. I gave up the drugs and I left the gang.

As soon as I got off the drugs, I started finding myself again and through that I found my Maori culture, and within two weeks my whole world started changing. People were being nice and would say hi to me.

The months started passing and eventually, it had been a year and in that time I had remained drug and gang free, and I started seeing my kids two-three times a week. I was living solely for my children. I went to Family Group Conferences, I did a parenting course, an anger management course, until finally one day I went to an FGC and my children were gifted back to me.

Since then, I’ve been solely a dad. I’ve realised I don’t need a gang. I don’t need anyone to make me feel tough. I had created this thought in my head that I had been mentally unwell, but I wasn’t.

People had finally started seeing me for who I was. I managed to get a house through Inspire property and they gave me my first job as a gardener.

I am stuck with these tattoos but I don’t hate the way I look, I accept it. I know I can’t blame the way I look, the weather, my finances, on anything. It’s all up to me.

Engaging with Nga Kete was like walking onto a Marae. It sends a shiver down my spine walking onto a Marae, and that’s how it felt coming here.

I had always thought spiritually Nga Kete would fit me well. There have been a few times I’ve turned up and I’ve walked away at the door but I’ve stopped myself and I’ve come in and I have seen several people here over the years. Nga Kete has done multiple things for me. I’m talking spiritual help, mental health, the help you get in your heart.

There were times I’ve left Nga Kete crying, sometimes I’d leave angry, but I’ve always come back. They’ve been to my home to drop off food, they’ve done karakia for me. I’ve come here on drugs and they’ve still supported me.

I’m just thankful. Nga Kete has played a huge role in my life and continues to do so. I appreciate it and I appreciate what everyone here has done.

I haven’t been arrested in three years. I’ve been off drugs for two years. If I can do it, anyone can do it. I’ve done some bad things in my life and I’m still paying for it, but I still get up every day and face the issues I still have.

The agencies have proven that after all of this time, they are still there for me. In August my beautiful son, my eldest Karson Gene Grennell, was killed in a car crash. Throughout that, I have had to learn forgiveness and empathy. It’s been the hardest thing I have ever had to deal with.

Nga Kete, along with other agencies, have been there for me throughout. Staff from Nga Kete dropped off food parcels, flowers, and sat with me while I cried and worked through my emotions. I could never have gotten through all of this without all of the support wrapped around me.

I still have my home, I still have full custody of my two boys, and I’ve remained drug and gang free. I’ve been going to Inspire Church. I have found faith, forgiveness and a new outlook on life.

I’ve been doing some motivational speaking. I’ve been telling my story and getting the message across to never give up on your kids, and that you can change your life if you want to.

I will continue my journey of healing and helping others. I’m a born helper and healer. I want to help other people. I call it the voice of the heroes. I AM the voice of the heroes.

I would like to thank the following people and organisations:

  • Nga Kete Matauranga Pounamu Charitable Trust
  • Invercargill Oranga Tamariki, with special thanks to Raewyn Hubbard, Sue Hamill, Erin Bradley, and David Griffin.
  • Family Works
  • Awarua Services
  • Te Wharekura o Arowhenua – staff and teachers

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