TūKotahi/Stand as One: An Interview with Ezekiel Raui

25 October 2018

21-year old Massey University business and management student, Ezekiel Raui, has many notable accolades to his name. From being chosen to be a recipient of a 2018 Queen’s Young Leader Award, to receiving a Ngārimu VC and 28th (Māori) Battalion Memorial Scholarship in 2017, through to being named as a Kiwibank New Zealand Local Hero in 2016, it’s very clear that Ezekiel is a high achiever. But, perhaps his biggest achievement to date relates to his work around the creation of TūKotahi, a peer-to-peer mental health support programme.

Ezekiel Raui

Ezekiel explains how he became involved in this important mahi.

“I was born in Rotorua, and grew up in Tokoroa for the first five years of my life before eventually moving to Karikari Peninsula in the Far North of Aotearoa. I am the eldest of four children, two boys and two girls. My motivation for supporting my peers stems from the fact that I have been raised to believe that courage is best portrayed through kindness and support, and that a positive home, working and school environment is fundamental to the well-being of a person.”

Ezekiel decided to become an advocate for other young people following a spate of suicides which affected his community.

“I didn’t feel it was right to sit idly by while my peers were experiencing a rough time so I, alongside my peers decided to try our best to be proactive in providing positive, change-making experiences for those who need them,” he says.

TūKotahi, which means ‘stand as one’, aims to equip young people with the tools necessary to guide their peers to the right support and remove the responsibility put upon young people to have to make ‘the right decision’ when it comes to how best to support their peers. Ezekiel was prompted to look for ways to support other rangatahi after hearing mental health awareness campaigner, Mike King, speak at his high school about his own struggles. Government has committed funding and the TūKotahi programme is currently being prepared to pilot in four Auckland schools.

Ezekiel has big ambitions for TūKotahi.

“My goals for the programme are to instil the ability to communicate safely into young people, to create empowered young people within schools, and to see the programme roll out to all schools in Aotearoa.”

We asked Ezekiel what advice he could offer other young people in terms of having the confidence to pursue their dreams.

“The best advice I can give to young people is to learn to believe in yourself, your dreams and your aspirations. Often people look to others as their source of confidence and that’s ok. But I think that if you believe in yourself, anything is possible. Building your self-belief can be done through stepping outside your comfort zone, surrounding yourself with people who provide constructive and supportive feedback, removing pessimistic people from every-day contact, and learning from mistakes you have made,” he says.

Ezekiel serves on MYD’s Partnership Fund Board and is determined to see young New Zealanders resourced and supported to be proactive in their communities:

“Without a doubt, I am passionate about the concept of authenticating youth voice at every level of decision making. From team planning right through to governmental policy, I feel that young people’s voices need to be empowered at every level.”

Ezekiel’s self-belief and passion for positive change is certainly proving to be of tremendous value to his fellow rangatahi. Aotearoa New Zealand’s young people are in a better position for having him as a strong advocate and supporter. 

If issues highlighted in this article have affected you, below are some options for seeking help: 

Need to talk? Free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor 

Lifeline 0800 543 354 

Youthline 0800 376 633, free text 234 or emailtalk@youthline.co.nz or online chat 

Samaritans 0800 726 666 

Suicide Crisis Helpline 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) 

What's Up 0800 942 8787 (for 5–18 year olds). Phone counselling is available Monday to Friday, midday–11pm and weekends, 3pm–11pm. Online chat is available 7pm–10pm daily 

Kidsline 0800 54 37 54 (0800 kidsline) for young people up to 18 years of age. Open 24/7 

thelowdown.co.nz or emailteam@thelowdown.co.nz or free text 5626 

Anxiety New Zealand 0800 ANXIETY (0800 269 4389) 

Supporting Families in Mental Illness 0800 732 825. 

If it’s an emergency, or you or someone you know is at immediate risk, call 111.