I was first introduced to the Māngere Young Driver's project when I arrived at Curative. Several documents made their way into my inbox and as I read through them I realized that this was one very, very complex beast. Mostly I just felt like - what the hell is going on here? I look back at that moment and realize I had no idea what I was getting into. Road safety you say? Sounds interesting. Māngere? Never been there.
At that stage we were still running co-design groups to brand this beast Behind the Wheel and to come up with communications opportunities that would resonate with the community. The 'co-papa' (self-named) were eight eclectic characters of Māngere. A passionate church elder who was always keen to share with her whole community the, then confidential, information, our friendly and funny family man who started every introduction with "I have nine children... all to the same woman", the Marae manager who had a constant enthusiasm, positivity and inner light that shone through even on her busiest days... all these people welcomed me in and they became my Behind the Wheel family.
It was their energy, warmth and enthusiasm for Behind the Wheel that really grew on me. There was such a strong community spirit here that I definitely did not feel in the block of units I live in in Remuera - I saw so much kindness in their hearts and it was really touching. I didn't know then, that from getting to know them my life would be made richer.
At the time I was filled with a somewhat naive enthusiasm for their idea to have an 'amazing race' event in Māngere. Easy! Fun! No worries guys! 4 months to create a website, a whole Pledge Team process and all the collateral? I was ready to go.
There were early warning signs that this wasn't going to be easy. I think that happened in my first planning session with Eddy - where we wrote our first of many (many, many) checklists. Oh - it seems there's quite a bit to organise here.... we can do that though, right Eddy?
Still, I thought about how awesome this community was and I wanted to do this for them, come hell or high water (as they say).
Behind the Wheel Māngere became 80% of my time, energy and dreams. Everything and everyone involved were a daily touchpoint for me. At times I felt in over my head - I've never written content for a website before, I've never created collateral before, I've never organised an event before. But luckily for me, Curative have! They were there with me every step, and showed incredible patience for the constant questions - they will all make excellent parents one day. They made it possible for me to say, I can do this!
When things started becoming real - like the website going live, the pledge pack folders, stickers, magnets and t-shirts arriving, the boxes and boxes of things for the event filling our meeting room, I started to feel that sense of achievement. But I could not rest, there was still the Pit Stop Challenge event to pull off, no pats on the back yet.
The last couple of weeks before the Challenge were crazy. But every time I went out to Māngere to talk to those involved and show them what we'd created I got a boost of energy. They were so happy with it all, they were so proud of it, they owned it and they were so thankful. It was like that feeling you get when you buy someone the best gift ever and they love it because it shows how well you know them.
Pit Stop Challenge day - everything was coming together and I was getting to meet the wider community, not just those involved in making this happen. It was awesome to see that everyone was so engaged and really enjoyed the day. I'll still admit a highlight was seeing a Counties Manukau Policeman singing Michael Jackson on the karaoke machine. But the best part was seeing the pride and joy in people when they completed the challenge and feeling that togetherness that has underpinned my entire journey with Māngere so far.
I'm really thankful for what this project and the people I've met in Māngere have done for me. They've shown to me the power of community, connection and aroha. I'm grateful to have been able to help them begin to create the change that they want for their young people. Road safety you say? Let's have a conversation about it. Māngere? What an awesome place, can't wait to see everyone again.
Māngere community fan girl,
Jo Mitchell x