Paul Thompson has had a heart for the young people of Upper Hutt for over 15 years. Read our Q&A below and find out why he began the Upper Hutt Community Youth Trust and the various initiatives within the community.
When did you know you wanted to work with young people?
When I was 16, I was at a conference with other young people and youth workers. The person speaking said that NZ needs young people who will commit to a lifetime of working with young people, and making a difference for them. Something clicked at that time and I knew that was what I was called to do.
What was your inspiration for starting the work in the community?
Actually it comes back to a passage of scripture that talks about the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:31-46). There are those who talk about looking after the poor and the underpriveliged but don't do anything about it, and those that actually practice what they preach. You can't read the Bible and not get a sense of God's heart for the poor and those in need in our community. Someone has to care, and I believe as followers of Jesus we have a responsibility to. Following Jesus isn't just about meeting inside the four walls of a church, its about interacting with those who are in our community and helping make a difference for them.
Why Upper Hutt?
About 15 years ago, Karen and I received a phone call from someone we didn't know inviting us to come and do youth work in Upper Hutt. We'd never really been to Upper Hutt, but came for an interview and were hooked. We have invested 15 years, building relationships and networks, and want to continue to make a difference for this local community.
Why did you form UHCYT?
We had a heart for the at-risk young people in our community, and needed a vehicle to be able to deliver the services and programmes they would benefit from. UHCYT was formed to enable us to continue working with the young people in our community, to bring hope to their situations.
What is the difference between simply working for an organisation, and actually running your own trust?
There is a greater level of responsibility, particularly around funding requirements. We only exist because people and other organisations believe in what we do and fund us. When we were working under an organisation, it was a given that we would keep existing, and that salaries and programmes costs would be funded. It's now ultimately my responsibility to find that funding. It is rewarding, and there's a freedom to dream bigger and see things come to pass without some of the red tape that might come with being under an organisation.
What do you find most rewarding from the trust?
The most rewarding thing is seeing young people make positive changes for their future. It makes all the hard work all worth it. It's exciting to see our staff having impact on young people, and although I'm not doing as much hands-on work with young people currently, knowing that as a trust we are able to impact and make a difference is awesome.
Who are you most inspired by?
Anyone who gives everything for a dream. So often I hear people say "I wish I could do this", or most commonly, "I had a dream to do this but now I'm stuck here and it will never happen." Nelson Mandela had a dream, but he tenaciously held on to it, and look what happened. The people who inspire me are those who run with their dreams, those who don't let their dreams be stolen or watered down, but stick with them and see them happen.