Man up intiative encourages men to open up not harden up

By Taroi Black

Rawiri Pouwhare (Ngāi Tuhoe) was a gang member for over 20 years. He's now left that life behind and is now a member of an initiative called Man Up, a group established nationwide to prevent depression and help men become better role models. 

Former gang member Rawiri Pouwhare says he's managed to turn his life around through the Man Up initiative.

Mr Pouwhare says, "Honestly, I was getting sick going around and around in the same old circle and going to jail, violence, drugs and alcohol, and fuelled by that."

Mr Pouwhare and his wife Marama were Black Power members for 26 years until they both called it quits three years ago.

"I just had enough really, I just told them that changing my life coming into Destiny Church and really haven't really looked back yet. Been clean off the drugs for two and a half years now and it's been the best thing that has ever happened to me and my wife."

Two years ago, his pastor from the Whakatane branch, Andre Nicholas formed the Man Up program to help men become better role models within their communities.

Mr Nicholas says, "Through that we've seen heaps of guys transform their lives from all sorts of backgrounds, Black Powers, Mongrel Mob and Tribesmen. You know everyday kiwi guys who are wanting to improve their lives and to see the change for the good."

The program (Man Up) which runs weekly began with seven members in Whakatane. Now it has over three thousand men in search of a brighter future.

"There was actually seven of us that started this program. But it's gone global, I mean it's gone right around the country and Australia now."