ATAWHAI - Mindfulness & stress management program for marganalised youth


This program works with a group of marginalised Auckland youth aged 14-18 with low self-efficacy but lots of potential. Rangatahi are recruited from community partners, alternative education, low-decile schools and corrections programs.


Program structure:

  1. 2 weeks of mentoring, mindfulness & stress management program for marginalised youth

  2. Program is continued over 12 months to support high needs youth to improve their mental health and resilience through monthly workshops, mentoring and stress management coaching

ATAWHAI is a resilience and positive mental health program that supports youth to improve their own lives through mindfulness, stress management and leadership capabilities.

At ATAWHAI, rangatahi learn to deal with challenging emotions, conflicts and to improve their forgiveness, honest communication, empathy, focus, motivation, positive decision making and positive relationship skills.


Evaluations show that 100% of our ATAWHAI youth have seen a reduction in stress, an increase in focus, calmness, connection and trust. Rangatahi have seen positive impacts on anxiety & depression.

ATAWHAI youth are teaching their community stress management tools through our training the trainer program. This program increases the wellbeing of not rangatahi but also whanau, school, workplace and the wider community.

In our latest ATAWHAI youth program, 100% of youth reported a reduction in stress and very high percentages (ranging from 96-99%) of rangatahi reported that the below target youth outcomes has been achieved.

Target youth outcomes:

  • Increase in calmness and ability to manage stress / anger
  • Increased ability to focus
  • Increased kindness to others & to self
  • Increased sense of connection and improved relationships
  • Improved ability to communicate & manage conflicts


The kaupapa is built on 5 principles: non judgement, vulnerability, self-compassion, fun and support. These 5 principles guide our tikanga and are reflected throughout each class.


When young people have the support they need, they can learn to manage stress on even the busiest of days and support themselves in the midst of chaos. Using Mindfulness & The Work of Byron Katie, our stress management coaching supports rangatahi to manage stress, be kinder to themselves, let go of others stress & improve their relationships, communication and health.


Rangatahi are partnered with a youth mentor who guides and supports their personal growth throughout the intensive 2 week program and post program over 12 months of ATAWHAI. Mentors are specialists in youth development, the creative arts, mindfulness and stress management for marginalised youth.

Mentors support rangatahi to explore their new learnings through the healing power of creativity. Our ATAWHAI mentoring program includes workshops on acting, dance, music, writing, visual art, pottery.


Through the ‘training the trainer’ model, our young people teach whanau & friends their new stress management tools.  The innovative training the trainer model is based on the principle that we are training our rangatahi who in turn, train other people at their home, school or community. Becoming the teacher allows students the opportunity to build self-efficacy, respect and support from their peers.

Students learn how to teach yoga and mindfulness and support themselves and others through stressful times. They also learn to listen effectively, maintain a positive and encouraging attitude, speak with clarity and confidence, maintain interest and take on constructive criticism.  This model has helped students with highly anxious, anti-social and defiant behaviour to make positive transformations in their own lives. This model has a huge ripple effect and impacts many young people & whanau in need.

How does it work?

Rangatahi teach each other in class and throughout the program.

Mahi kainga (homework) is in two parts;

1.        To practice new skills outside of class

2.        To teach mindfulness and stress management techniques to someone in your community