Our ATAWHAI program works with marginalised Auckland youth aged 13-18 with low self-efficacy but lots of potential. It runs over 12 months and supports our youth holistically through intensive week-long programs, ongoing mentoring and stress management coaching.

Rangatahi are recruited from community partners, alternative education, low-decile schools and youth justice programs. At ATAWHAI, they learn to deal with challenging emotions, conflicts and to improve their own lives.

This program was developed with support from international & local research, youth and cultural advisors, educators and psychologists to ensure that we are catering to the unique cultural needs of our young people. 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.

ATAWHAI has a youth lead evaluation and development process and our program evaluation and development advisors include psychologists, psychiatrists, educators, frontline youth workers and cultural advisors. We’re committed to ensuring that there is a sound evidence base for all of our mahi. 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 outcomes had been achieved.

We have run this program for two years and have received generous funding to cover 30% of the 2018 program costs from the Department of Internal Affairs and Sky City Community Trust. We are looking for funding for the remaining costs and in the meantime are running the program through support from our social enterprise program donations.


By rangatahi, for rangatahi

By designing, delivering and evaluating our programme in partnership with young people, for young people we are ensuring we address the cultural needs of rangatahi.

A key part of The Kindness Institute’s vision is that rangatahi who have been through the programme also step into teaching, mentoring and governance roles. The Kindness Institute is already working with six rangatahi (16 & 17 years old) who have been teaching and supporting in the delivery of our programmes to primary school, alternative education, high school students and adult programmes.

Our youth advisory committee is made up of under 18 year olds who have been involved in The Kindness Institute’s programmes and who are / have been facing the effects of marginalisation, anxiety, depression and lack of access to general wellbeing support and services.

Cultural responsiveness

Rangatahi led programme design, development and evaluation is a key factor in the success of our organisation. The Kindness Institute’s holistic framework supports wairua, hinengaro, tinana and whānau and is guided by Te Whare Tapa Whā. Our programme has a strong Te Reo Māori focus and is being translated into Te Reo Māori.

Around 87% of our participants are Māori and Pacifika as are the majority of our programme facilitators, youth mentors and programme advisors. By consulting with whānau, school sector and community members we ensure our programme is responsive to the needs of the community.

All of the lessons are grounded in whanaungatanga and highlight the importance of Te Whare Tapa Whā through korero and the use of mindfulness. All of the lessons use mindfulness to strengthen the understanding that a person's sense of identity and hauora is tied up with a collective perspective, rather than individually focused.

Stress and resilience coaching 

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


Rangatahi are partnered with a youth mentor who guides and supports their personal growth throughout the intensive 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. Our ATAWHAI mentoring program includes workshops on acting, dance, music, writing, visual art & pottery.

Training the trainer

Through the ‘training the trainer’ model, our young people teach whanau & friends their new stress management tools.  The innovative 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.

Evaluative process

Our intensive ATAWHAI programme involves a strong evaluative approach with daily feedback and evaluations from both rangatahi, kaimahi and mentors. In response to the needs of the community, the evaluation process consists of rangatahi led formative, qualitative and evaluative assessment of the desired outcomes. This qualitative approach allows for evaluations to be interpreted based on participants’ direct experience and what is meaningful for them.