Since we began we have grown, adapted and changed countless times. Many people have worked for or alongside us and all have left their mark on what we offer the young people of the Upper Clutha today. Here’s our story so far….

Kahu Youth began in July 2003, after the community recognised a need for a youth voice, along with youth based activities and events within the Wanaka Community.

Tarn Felton was Kahu Youth’s first youth worker, based in a tiny office in the old Community Networks building on Dunmore Street. Tarn was the sole youth worker for four years, doing a remarkable job keeping a youth service running despite having no youth club, barely any resources and hardly any money.  

Over these four years Kahu Youth began running Boys and Girls adventure clubs, one on one sessions, a Youth Council, had involvement with YATA (Youth access to alcohol) running a ‘mock crash’ once a year and spent time at Mount Aspiring College as a floating teaching assistant, as well as supporting families and young people through whatever problems they faced at the time.  

In 2006 we ran our first M.A.S.H (Mellow and Safe Haven) tent at Rippon Music Festival, a chill out place for those who feel unwell. Also that year the Youth Council sponsored a Tibetan child and tried to raise money to go to Tibet to meet him.

Richard Elvey joined Kahu Youth part time working alongside Tarn from 2007.

Kahu Youth organised our first street parade in October, 2008 replacing the Wanakafest parade for that year.

When Tarn left for pastures new, Richard became the full time worker in January 2009. Tarn was seen off at ‘Farewell Felton’ a family day out on Pembroke Park, which would later become our annual summer event ‘The little day out’. Kim Holmes joined Richard at the end of that month, and for the first time we had two full time youth workers. It was also around this time that we began setting up our as yet unnamed new venue.

The Crib, as it was named by the first young visitors, officially opened in May 2009, though young people were visiting as early as February. The Crib was Wanaka’s first ever youth club, and before long we began our drop in sessions on Friday and Saturday nights.

2009 was a busy year, as we also rebranded [egg id=”5″] and launched our new logo, designed by a year 12 student at Mount Aspiring College. Our first holiday programmes were started and 17 year old Sophia DeWaal launched Bluemoon, fun alcohol free events for young people. The youth workers started working with the student council and SADD (Students against driving drunk) at Mount Aspiring College, replacing the youth council.

Other new initiatives in 2009 included ‘Wanaka’s young change makers’ a group of active young people promoting sustainable practice in the Upper Clutha in partnership with Enviroschools.  We also organised our first official Wanakafest Parade and Cardboard boat race.  

2010 saw us consolidate our existing programmes. The number of young people using our space rose steadily through the year and we added some new events and activities including a “Youth club on the park” at Wanakafest and our first Matariki event, a small pot luck dinner at the Arts centre. The end of 2010 saw Richard join the Wanakafest trust.

2011 was another massive year of change and growth for us. In February Angie Griffiths became the latest member of the Kahu Youth team when Kim Holmes left for Teachers College.  Matariki grew to become a huge community event on the lakefront involving over 500 locals, performances, bonfires and a huge hangi. Bluemoon grew to become a committee of five young people aged 14 – 19. Sponsored by ALAC they ran 4 free ‘fun without drinking’ events during the year aimed at 14 – 17 year olds. We also ran a 10 week Radio course learning how to organise, run and present radio shows. The youth involved produce ‘The Crib sessions’ a for youth, by youth radio show on Wanakabeats from 4 to 4:30pm on weekdays.

In 2012, we opened our brand new, bigger, brighter and better Crib at 11 Russell Street, Wanaka. At more than twice the size of the old Crib it has more space for more young people to come and hang out, participate in programs or even run their own. The number of young people using the facility soon began to climb sharply and by the end of 2013 the numbers had more than doubled that of the old venue.

2013 heralded the arrival of our very own 11 seater vehicle; the first time Kahu Youth has ever owned such a thing. This has opened up our local playground to us and the young people who use our service like never before as well as allowing more spontaneity and youth led decisions within our existing activities.  

At the end of 2016 Angie, who was now a Lister with her husband Jack, left for a year to become a mother for the first time and we welcomed the awesome Claire ‘Frenchy’ French onto the team. Angie returned part time in early 2018 and for the first time ever we had three paid members of staff.

We still run all our successful programs and are always planning more new exciting projects and opportunities for young people in the Upper Clutha area.

Kahu Youth continues to grow, adapt and learn to meet the constantly changing needs of our wonderful, vibrant community and the amazing young people that live within it. This is just the beginning of our story……