My name is Mana Khan and I am 20 years of age. Four months ago, I was getting up to a lot of mischief and crime. I saw myself heading towards prison life. I was using drugs daily, stealing to support my habit, unemployed and just not caring about anything.
I was on probation and not complying with my sentence. I was hanging out with the wrong people and negative influences; all around I was causing trouble. I ended up in Waikeria Prison on remand, waiting to be sentenced for my previous crimes. I was looking at getting sentenced to 18 months prison time. During my month on remand, I had time to reflect, and I thought about how I didn’t want to waste my life in prison.
Just before I had been sent to prison, I had bumped into Krista Davis who runs Live for More. We briefly spoke and I told her about the trouble I was getting into. She had advised me to join Tai Wātea, the Live for More surf therapy programme, as it would be a good support for me. I was keen for this, but once I had gone to prison I thought I had missed the opportunity.
I spent a month in prison and then it was time for me to be sentenced. I had no idea, but Krista had written a letter to the judge explaining the programme and how it would be a positive thing for me, asking the judge to give me another chance instead of a prison sentence. The judge took the letter into consideration and saw that the programme had the potential to change my life. Despite all my previous noncompliance with community sentences, the judge miraculously gave me one last chance and released me on a community sentence so I could take part in Tai Wātea. I was not going to prison for 18 months!
The next week Tai Wātea started. I was still tripping out that I had been released. Getting in the ocean made me realise that I was free and not stuck in a concrete cell. Each week of Tai Wātea taught me a better perspective on life and showed me that my life has a purpose.
On Tai Wātea I realised that I could live a better life than what I had been and that it was possible for me to change. The guest speakers on Tai Wātea taught me heaps because they had similar troubled backgrounds to me, but they had turned their lives around. This taught me that it is possible to become a better person, and that I could leave my old life behind me and move forward in life.
Tai Wātea has given me confidence in myself; to move forward, to keep going, to stay positive and to live for MORE. I was even given the opportunity and rose up as the leader on my programme.
At our graduation on 6 October, I lead myself and the other graduates in a powerful haka we performed for the audience. I felt empowered, strong and proud of myself in that moment.
Over the eight weeks of Tai Wātea, I felt myself grow in many ways and I have seen many changes in myself. I have been drug-free since coming out of prison and this wouldn’t have happened without the support of Tai Wātea. I also have been complying with my probation sentence and have not been in any
trouble with the law. Without this programme, I would be in jail right now serving my 18 months. I believe my life would have headed in a very different direction. Tai Wātea has guided me onto a better path in life. Through this programme I have met positive role models who are supporting me to stay on this better path. Because of Tai Wātea, I now believe in myself, I have more hope and I know I can achieve whatever I put my mind to.
I thank Tai Wātea and Live for More for the opportunity they gave me and for all the support.
Mana with whānau at his Tai Wātea graduation 6 October 2017.