Local youth worker sponsored for a year

Growing up isolated, marginalised and unhappy in rural New Zealand has shaped the way Seb Stewart has approached his life.

Thanks to the 2011 World of Difference programme run by the Vodafone New Zealand Foundation Seb will have his salary and expenses paid for a year as he looks to continue the work Q-Youth has established over its first two years in Nelson.

Being able to work full time for Q-Youth will enable Seb to increase the number of schools he is working with in the Nelson/Tasman/Marlborough region, establish sustainable sources of future funding, enhance the drop-in centre they have established and build up better networks for future collaboration.

Q-Youth is the first gay-straight alliance, where adults and youth work together. “I am motivated to help provide a different world for the queer youth of today, one where they are accepted, nurtured and celebrated. The environment we have created with Q-Youth is brilliant, but there is so much more we can be doing for the queer youth of this region.”

“Certainly within the schools and society, homophobic bullying is something that needs to be addressed in a gentle and effective manner. Part of this funding will provide education and therapy support in schools for young people who are experiencing the negative consequences of bullying.”

Q-Youth has support from a wide range of influential community members including the Mayor, local college representatives and students.

The experience Seb can draw from as he embarks on his Vodafone World of Difference year, is extraordinary. He set up Kadampa Buddhism in New Zealand in 2001, in 2006 he left organised religion and set up a community Artspace in Nelson. He then embarked on a Diploma in Applied Counseling, where he graduated in 2010 and has been counseling students at a number of colleges throughout the region. In 2009 he set up Q-Youth’s Steering Committee and up until now has been working eight hours a week for the Q-Youth.

“I am so excited to have this opportunity. To have the interview panel call and say we’re really into what you want to do in Nelson. That’s saying something not only Nelson but for New Zealand. The whole Queer Youth network feels honoured.”

Five other people from around the country have also been named as recipients of the World of Difference programme:

  • Fiona Hargreaves (Christchurch) – 180 Degrees Trust
  • Guy Ryan (Dunedin) – Inspiring Stories Trust Board
  • Julian Reweti (Bay of Islands) – Te Runanga o Ngatihine Trust
  • Nicky Skerman (Hawkes Bay) – Royal New Zealand Plunket Society
  • Samuel Twomey (Upper Hutt) – Hutt Valley Youth Health Trust (Vibe)

Vodafone NZ Foundation Chair Michael Stanley says the 2011 recipients are incredibly impressive.

“So many passionate and talented people applied this year and everyone needs to be acknowledged. As the programme grows in stature so too do the applicants and our job certainly isn’t getting any easier in selecting the recipients. We are confident this group of individuals will show the character and determination to make a difference in many people’s lives over the next 12 months and beyond.

“Having people like the 2011 World of Difference recipients in our communities is something we can all be proud of.”

With the World of Difference programme paying their salary and expenses, recipients are able to transform what many would consider a part-time passion into a full-time commitment. It is Vodafone’s way of helping strengthen communities and support better outcomes for Kiwi youth.

The programme was established in 2002 and has enabled 45 passionate people to make a world of difference in New Zealand and overseas.

The Vodafone New Zealand Foundation has invested nearly $10 million in the not-for-profit sector over the past eight years, through initiatives such as World of Difference.

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