Living up in a tree for two years of her childhood now motivates Emma Makatea to help save young people.
Emma’s challenging life journey has led her to start the Kāpiti Coast No More Meth group to help people who are directly and indirectly affected by P.
More than 1000 people sought help in the first four months.
It’s challenging work, Emma says. There are continuing phone calls, being there for others. Some callers are suicidal.
Because Emma had tried to take her own life several times, she understands what others can be going through. She says being there for others is also part of the healing process for her.
It’s a home-grown initiative run by volunteers who support people and their families to better understand methamphetamine (P) and its pull.
From Kāpiti Coast No More Meth, seven new groups have begun: in Lepperton (Taranaki), Hāwera, Gisborne, Nelson, Picton, Christchurch and Gore, often started by Emma’s friends who are living there.
The Taranaki groups were near to where Emma was born in Waitara, north of New Plymouth. She is one of eight children of Maori and Italian descent.
It was an unhappy life at home, where she felt unsafe and unwanted.
So, aged 8, she ran away and lived up in a tree during the day.
The tree is still there in Stratford, near the town clock and public toilets.
From the tree she watched people sitting outside a bakery and took note of the leftovers they put in the rubbish bin.
At night she roamed the streets, eating from rubbish bins.
After two years in the tree (she is sure no-one knew she was there) she and her friends hitched a ride to Auckland where Emma, then 10, became the youngest street kid in South Auckland.
She felt neither safe nor wanted at home and other places she lived so she kept running away.
She also discovered drugs – using weed and sniffing glue and paint to get high.
Detoxed over two years
Eighteen years ago a Christian friend reached out to her. She stayed in her friend’s sleep-out and, over a period of two years, detoxed from heroin, meth and other substances.
Emma says she gave her friend hell but without her she would probably be dead. She certainly would not have an inspiring story to tell.
Emma found work and “saw myself for who I was.”
She has the occasional flashback to the past but is “not so broken anymore.”
Now I can give hope.”
She has 24 godchildren, including nephews and nieces, some whom have lived with her.
Passionate about the kids of the future
“I am passionate about our future generation.”
Emma’s Christian faith is also an important part of her life.
“I also discovered that in my lifetime of growing up God was always with me and I didn’t figure that out until now.”
She was baptised two years ago and attends a church on the Kāpiti Coast.
Emma did surveys in shops, streets and homes around Kāpiti before starting the No More Meth group.
She set up a table in the busking zone outside Coastlands Mall from where she provided information about how P affects people and what it did to her.
However, she drew the attention of a council officer and several police while a crowd looked on. But she got the mayor’s blessing and stayed on.
That was about three years ago and, soon after, she began the Kāpiti group, which is currently based in Paraparaumu. It is run by a team of volunteers, overseen by a committee.
They draw on their own experiences and have support from people in the local community and other areas.
Emma believes addictions are caused by a person’s home environment.
Her own family life made her rebellious and this led to addictions.
“I don’t want for other future kids to feel that they have to be like that.”
She has specific advice for parents.
Encourage your babies and keep a strong hold on their lives. A safe haven is in the home.”
To help provide resources for its work, the Kāpiti group has organised a concert for Sunday, 24 November 2019. The venue will be Matthews Park in Raumati Beach.
The theme is “Reaching Out to Our Youth and Future Generations.” It runs from 9.30 am until 4 pm and entry is $5 per family.
Entry is $5 per family.
Entertainment includes bouncy castle, free barbecue, face painting, cake stands, hotdogs, children’s lucky dips, gumboot throwing, waterslides, live music (Zeal), pony and Harley rides.
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To make contact with Kāpiti Coast No More Meth, email: [email protected]