Rise issue 13 cover

LSV’s founders look back 

Two old army mates, born and bred on the West Coast of the South Island, were the architects of the Limited Service Volunteer (LSV) programme which has helped to motivate thousands of young people since 1993.

Denis King and Jack Powley's blueprint for LSV drew on more than 30 years in the military and working with young people.

It was 1984 when Denis King, then serving at Burnham Military Camp, was invited to join a new initiative - a six-month course for under-25-year-olds - called Limited Service Volunteers.

This early version of LSV was loosely strung together. The ad hoc approach had a few problems; the young people living on the military bases were mixing with regular forces, yet couldn't be part of the social life because of their age.

"So we introduced night classes including reading, writing, health, budgeting," Denis said. "We made it up as we went along and by the end it was going pretty well."

This version of LSV went into recess after three years. Denis retired from the armed forces in 1990, and set up the Paparua Community Activity Centre for young people, helped by long-time Army mate Jack Powley.


"Paparua was a steep learning curve for us," says Jack. "Working with these young students was a world away from working with military trainees."

The Monday-to-Friday lessons ran for 12 weeks and included outdoor challenges and life skills such as hygiene, sexual health, anger management, job searching and goal setting. The final test was a five-day endurance tramp in the Canterbury high country.

"For many of these kids, it was the first time they had ever been out of Christchurch - so it was a huge learning experience. You saw them change from being directionless and withdrawn to confident and outgoing."

But the heartbreaking thing was weekends.

"We would see positive changes happening through the week. But after a weekend at home many returned withdrawn and uncommunicative - back to square one.

"On our second trip to the high country, one of the women chaperoning the group asked us if we knew that every single one of those kids - boys and girls - had been assaulted by their families or people they knew.

"It was an amazing and horrible reality. We saw a lot of things as a soldier, but I had never heard of such violence to young people, right here, at home," he said.

When the Army asked Denis and Jack to design LSV Mark II based on the Paparua Lifeskills programme, they were adamant that participants needed to live away from outside influences, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Another major factor was the use of non-military specialist tutors who had been so effective at the Paparua course.

"Eighty percent of the programme depended on their skills," Denis said.

This version of LSV ran its first course in 1993, and has been running at Burnham ever since. Last year it expanded to Hobsonvillle Air Base in Auckland and Trentham Army Camp near Wellington. This year nearly 2,000 young people will graduate from LSV.

Jack and Denis are now retired. Both hold the New Zealand Defence Force Meritorious Service Medal (MSM) - a rare honour. Both have also been formally recognised for their contribution to LSV.

LSV - motivating youth

A "shock to the system" is how many trainees describe their first week at the Limited Service Volunteer (LSV) Company. The six-week LSV courses have been used to motivate and build confidence of young people for nearly 20 years. This year LSV was expanded from Christchurch, where it has run for the past 17 years, to Trentham in Wellington and Hobsonville in Auckland. This year about 2,000 trainees will go through LSV courses across the three regions.

LSV courses are run by the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) in partnership with the Ministry for Social Development. While the course takes place in a military environment, it has a strong focus on achieving employment-related outcomes. Trainees are volunteers aged between 18 and 25, who apply for the course through Work and Income.

Intakes of young people arrive at Burnham, Hobsonville or Trentham camps for six weeks of motivational and military training which keeps them challenged all day, every day. Behind all the activities is a desire to improve self esteem and confidence, inspire motivation and self discipline, and encourage respect for oneself and others.

Based on the classic Army model, each intake is divided into three groups or "Platoons". Trainees dress in army fatigues and are subject to military law. Waking at 5.30am they are kept busy until about 10pm with a variety of physical and mental challenges such as a 50km tramp, rafting and marching. Specialist tutors advise on life skills.

The course covers a range of activities such as:

  • outdoor and physical fitness training
  • group dynamics
  • leadership tasks
  • communication skills
  • general health instruction
  • safety and hygiene instruction
  • basic financial and budgetary skills
  • instruction in basic job search
  • personal presentation
  • employment expo with national, regional and local employers.

LSV graduate 14 years on

Fourteen years after he reluctantly took part in a Limited Service Volunteer course, Mason Peteru is an enthusiastic youth worker, leader and father. But he was not always so motivated.

Life was a beach for Mason Peteru when he was 20-years-old. Get up at two in the afternoon and spend the rest of the day at the beach - he didn't need to work because he was on the benefit.

Then he was told he had to go on a Limited Service Volunteer (LSV) course, or his benefit would be cut.

"I was all about freedom and here I was being told I had to go into the Army for six weeks," says Mason.

"When I got off the bus on the first day, I treated it like a joke. I didn't think I would stay for the whole time. We were out camping in the middle of winter in Christchurch and that wasn't for a beach bum like me."

Mason did stay and by the end of the course he was asked if he would like to join the Army.

"I said no to the Army, but I did come out of the course with a new sense of purpose. I needed to keep busy, have a routine, not sit around and waste my time. I had some really positive support afterwards that helped me look for work."

After some work experience at Work and Income, Mason was encouraged to apply for a job when it came up and he got it.

"I was so proud of myself. The rest of my family worked in factories and I knew I didn't want that. This job gave me responsibility, people's lives and wellbeing depended on me and that was really important," he says.

Mason left Work and Income to go to Australia where he got involved in youth work, and something clicked for him. When he came home he got a job at the former Kingslea Residential Centre, now Te Puna Wai o Tuhinapo residence.

"It's all about challenging young people's thinking, they way they think and the way they live. For the three months they are here you put in as much positive work as possible, but it is hard to measure outcomes. Some go out and come back, and you can see they have softened a bit, that's rewarding."

Fourteen years after the LSV course and getting his first job with Work and Income, Mason can look back on a wealth of achievement.

Currently a shift leader at Te Puna Wai o Tuhinapo youth justice residence in Christchurch, Mason has been on Te Ara Tiatia, MSD's leadership programme for Maori and Pacific staff, was seconded to National Office to work in learning and development, has trained staff nationwide and acted as team leader.

With his long term partner, Mason has a two-year-old son who he says has changed his life.

"When my son came along I had to grow up and do the adult thing, I can't muck around any more. I need to be a role model for my son and give him the best start in life I can. I know what can happen when adults let kids down, I see that every day."

The LSV course was a circuit breaker for Mason, coming along at a time in his life when he was ready to change.

"My mind was ready for LSV. I found that in life I might fall over but I could get up and try again. It showed me not to give up when you wanted something."

LSV turns RJ around

Earlier this year Riki-Joe Eynon's Nanna was at her wits' end with her grandson.

"Riki-Joe was just a drop out. He dropped out of school at the beginning of the year and all he wanted to do was play on his computer or watch TV, said Judy Hiwi.

"I couldn't get him up to look for work and then he decided he was going on the dole. We had an argument, I couldn't move him out of the house, he slept all day and was up all night - totally noncompliant".

Judy hooked up with employment coordinator Sirene Vagana from Glenfield/Birkenhead Work and Income to persuade her grandson to find work or to go on the LSV course at Hobsonville.

"We tried to get Riki-Joe on the first LSV course, but he mucked around until it was too late," says Sirene. "Judy was really proactive keeping in touch with me so we could join forces and get Riki-Joe on track."

The pair finally got Riki-Joe organised for the second course, although they had to drag him down to the bus "with his three-toned hair" and wait with him to make sure he got on the bus.

"I sat at home for the first three weeks expecting a call from Riki-Joe to come and pick him up, but thankfully it didn't come", Judy said.

In the fourth week Judy got the best surprise possible. "I received a letter from my grandson which was the first letter he had ever written me. In the past I would get birthday cards just signed RJ.

"I am so proud of him - he has goals and said he has learnt so much... and we have found a mechanic who will take him on as an apprentice."

Judy has looked after Riki-Joe since he was a baby.

"I want to know that when I am gone they can look after themselves, make good decisions, have a trade and a healthy social conscience".

Northland trainee steals the show

As six weeks of hard work and learning ended at Hobsonville's Limited Service Volunteer graduation ceremony in August, Northland trainee Samuel Henry (pictured above) called the troops into line for a haka.

The display was a stirring tribute to the achievements of the 114 graduates.

What followed next was even more emotional as Samuel asked his girlfriend to step forward. Standing to attention with flowers in hand, he asked Alyssa Powdrill-Toi, the mother of his child, to marry him. She said yes.

Samuel also received the platoon's top student award for outstanding achievement.

Lieutenant Commander Dave Casey said Samuel had stepped up as a leader, was an exceptional team player and was always first to volunteer for jobs.