Mentoring through technology

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Your Corps multi-player video gaming founder James Wards helps Luca Ford (7, left) and Liam Hill (9) with their games at the Your Corps video gaming day held at Balclutha Library in September. Photo: John Cosgrove

WHEN Your Corps founder James Wards put a call out for computers and parts for children affected by poverty, he never expected the response he got.

“It’s just gone absolutely ballistic, in about four days we had over 100 computers donated,” he said.

The plea came about after he recently started working with high-risk youth as a mentor and recognised how many were missing out because of their lack of access to technology.

Four years ago, he launched his company Your Corps to the rising mental health crisis.

The company hosts large-scale multi-player gaming events in Invercargill, Balclutha, Dunedin and Gore in an effort reduce suicide rates, by bringing young people together and building communities through gaming.

It was also about tackling school bullying and child poverty, he said.

Tired of seeing and hearing about young people “slipping through the cracks”, he knew the digital space was a way to connect with them, and connect them to others.

“I’ve had letters from parents thanking me personally because losing their child to suicide is no longer a fear for them.

“For the kids, being part of a community is they key and it gives them something to look forward to.”

Many young people who would normally be getting into trouble due to a lack of things to do, paired with their difficult living situations, were now regulars at Your Corps events.

“Instead of getting involved with alcohol and drugs, they’re coming to the events and recognising you don’t need those things to have fun.”

It had also been a benefit for young people living with a disability and those who lived in isolated rural areas, he said.

Since starting Your Corps, the interest in events had sky-rocketed with more than 100 being hosted throughout Southland.

“Last month we had 114 kids in one weekend.

“We’re having to turn kids away which we don’t want to do but there’s just not enough resources.”

The demand had resulted in things “descending into chaos”, he said.

“We need funding for the kids who can’t afford to go, those are the people that need it and deserve it the most.

“It’s a cycle, if we have enough computers for kids and then the funding to keep it going, there’s always going to be a social benefit.”

He argued there were a lot of negative misconceptions about gaming.

“There’s a stigma in video games we need to overcome, it’s not just violence.

“Kids are able to interact at our events rather than being isolated.”

From corporate businesses to polytechs, universities, and gamers themselves, he wanted people to get on board and donate their computers and parts which would otherwise end up at the dump.

Anything less than 10 years old would be accepted, he said.

LCD screens, keyboards, mice and hard drives were some items he was looking for to “save our kids and save the planet”.

Mr Wards said he was incredibly grateful for the support from Invercargill City Council, Gore and Clutha district councils and Dunedin City Council, as several councils had organised drop-off locations for computers and parts.

  • To find out more and for drop-off locations, go to www.yourcorps.co.nz.
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