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Issue No. 413 May 2017

Good work, Trainee Hughes

As Police mentor on the most recent Limited Service Volunteer (LSV) course at Burnham Military Camp, Youth Aid Constable Jothena Liupuhi, of Otahuhu, had a tough task: select one trainee to receive the Police Award.

I had done some mentoring before but nothing like the six-week LSV commitment.

One task was to pick the winner of the Police Award – a trainee who supported others, was respectful and committed to self-improvement, treated everybody equally and volunteered above expectations. That wouldn’t be easy.

Constable Jothena Liupuhi with Police Award winner Trainee Lajahwon Hughes.

On day one I watched as the military staff addressed the assembled trainees. Trainee Lajahwon Hughes appeared calm and focused on the people speaking. He was a big guy with a tattooed face. At first glance he looked intimidating.

I introduced myself in uniform to the trainees on day two. I was nervous and wasn’t sure what kind of reception I would get. But it went well.

The following day I visited the three platoons and spoke to them about what they wanted to achieve. Some were scared to approach me, but Trainee Hughes introduced himself and said he was excited to be there. I asked him about his tattoos and he asked me about mine.

He wanted to make something of his life. He didn’t want his children growing up, like him, around gangs and drugs. He wanted to make serious changes.

My role was to convince the trainees they could complete the course and that there’s more to life than getting high or drunk.

There was no time for shyness. I had to break barriers immediately. The only way was to show them the real me. I went to a different platoon every day - camping and tramping with them and doing what they did.

I completed exercises with them. I sat in on classroom sessions and went with them on shop runs to buy personal items. I ate and hung out with them. I helped a few style themselves for their graduation dinner.

I really got to know them – and they wanted to know about me and what it was like being a police officer.

I saw Trainee Hughes develop into a great leader in his platoon, helping his peers push themselves to their limits, with encouraging words for any who felt like giving up.

And he made an impact beyond his platoon. On the high ropes I saw him talking to trainees from other platoons, helping them overcome their fear of heights.

During a career expo session in the third week, Trainee Hughes stood up on his own initiative to thank the visiting presenter. Later I asked if he would have done that before. “NEVER!” He would have been too shy. It was clear he was undergoing a transition.

On graduation day, it took him a few seconds to realise it was his name announced for the Police Award. He composed himself and stepped forward.

He was in shock. He closed his eyes and shook my hand. “You’ve made some real positive changes,” I told him. “Keep heading that way because you’re going to make a great leader.”

Being a mentor challenged me physically and mentally and I loved it. I learnt lots about myself and about working with different age groups, cultures and people.

It was an honour to receive the trainees’ farewell gifts and have a haka performed for me. I must have done something right. I was overwhelmed.

Find out more about LSV here.

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