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Helping boys become greater men

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‘Boys to Great Men’ is a community funded group run initially from a church hall in Pomare every Thursday night. It is run by John Davies (the caretaker at The Learning Connexion) and local businessman, Tony White (owner of Naenae Mowers).

The aim of ‘Boys to Great Men’ is to help combat the growing problem of suicide amongst young boys aged 8 to 15 in the Taita area of Wellington by giving them more hope for their futures and providing them with positive male role models within a safe and supportive group environment.

Nearly all of the boys in the group come from blended or broken/solo parent homes, with several from a gang background. Some of the boys' dads have been, or still are, in jail and a few of the boys have never known their fathers. Most have lived with violence, substance abuse, addiction and poverty during their short lives.

Within two months of the group beginning, there were more than 100 Maori and Pacific Island boys enrolled with an average attendance of 45 boys per night. Due to an increase in numbers, the group has had to split with a separate group formed for boys from the Naenae area.



The boys enjoying a night of creativity and art at The Learning Connexion under tutor Shea Stackhouse’s guidance.


Each Thursday night, the boys meet up to have fun, play table tennis and other games. They are also taught life skills, and how to live within safe and clear boundaries from the men running the group. They learn to respect their leaders, each other and themselves, as well as the property. They also learn that bullying and fighting is not acceptable, the main consequence being that they are stood down from the group for a period of time.

John Davies says that, “They are tough boys on the exterior, but inside a lot of them are actually very sensitive. They’re just boys – still children and should be enjoying their childhood. We have even identified four of the boys who have the potential to become really good leaders. All of the boys in our group are turning their lives around, and are now doing really well at school.”

The Learning Connexion has been involved several times with the ‘Boys to Great Men’ group over the years, making art studios available and lending out the TLC bus for easier transportation to group events.

TLC Hot Art’s tutor, Shea Stackhouse, has run two art classes for the group in the Mixed Media studio. These classes revealed some cheeky, inquisitive, creative minds and a lot of artistic talent. It was satisfying to see all of the boys experience positive feelings and get excited about making art.

Late last year TLC also sponsored one of the boys, Jayden Savea, who was selected to play for the Wellington Under 13 rugby team.



Jayden Savea (up and coming young rugby star sponsored by The Learning Connexion) enjoying his art night working with plastilina.


Julian Dennison (star of ‘Hunt for the Wilderpeople’ and one of the boys) enjoying his art night. Julian’s dad and his twin brother are a regular part of the group.


Run completely by volunteers, ‘Boys to Great Men’ is open to talking to anyone with the right skillsets who can help out.

Tony’s daughter, Renee White, and her helpers currently provide food every Thursday night to the boys. For a period of time, the boys were even able to take a bag of bread, donated by a local bakery, home to their families. Something they hope to reinstate again.

The popularity and success of the ‘Boys to Great Men’ group has led to it being nominated for the Wellington Airport Community Awards where they won their category, Education & Child/Youth Development. This recognises volunteer community work within the Wellington region.



Left to right: Mayor Ray Wallace, men from Wellington Airport Community Trust, TLC caretaker and ‘Boys to Great Men’ Co-Founder, John Davies and Renee White with the awards.


If you would like to offer help to the ‘Boys to Great Men’ group, or are a male willing to become a mentor and strong role model to the boys, please contact John Davies at: J.Davies@tlc.ac.nz

Learn more about the types of creative classes The Learning Connexion runs.


  • Kath Wood
    22/11/2016 2:56am (7 years ago)

    What a fantastic way to bring the joy of art into the community. Especially wonderful to provide this opportunity for young males who may be experiencing difficult times.

  • Joan-Marie O'Dea
    08/11/2016 5:14am (7 years ago)

    this is a great KIWI community initiative to help develop yung kiwis