The Mairehau High School Year 11 student knows better than most how tough it can be.
When he was seven-months-old he was taken from his parents, who had alcohol and substance abuse issues, and put into the care of his grandparents. He is currently in his seventh foster placement since being moved into State care when he was 10.
“It got to the point when I was too much for my grandparents to handle. I was angry and couldn’t process my emotions.
“I went from home to home and had a really hard time. When things didn’t go well I never felt supported.”
After hitting rock bottom in 2020, Ihorangi says the support of his grandparents and current foster family, and advocacy from Voyce – Whakarongo Mai has helped him work through his emotions and give him purpose.
He is now on a mission to give young people in care access to the mental health and wellbeing support they need to ensure they are on a safe journey of healing.
“If I had the support I have now when I was younger my journey would have been very different. I would have been able to talk about the abuse I was facing and feel like I was listened to and valued."
He says it needs to become much easier for those in care to access the support they need when they need it.
‘Every young person in state care should be entitled to mental health support, and it needs to be much easier to raise concerns.
“A lot of young people in care reach out to me on social media. I seem to be the ‘go to’ if they’re struggling and want to talk.”
Ihorangi says there’s ‘lots to do' to ensure young people in care get the support they need.
“I’m spending the majority of my time advocating for young people in care. I had a great conversation with previous Oranga Tamariki CE Wira Gardiner a few months ago and am meeting Chappie Te Kani (acting chief executive) this week.”
His advocacy work is starting to get noticed. Ihorangi won the 2021 Young Change Maker Award at the Waitaha - Canterbury Youth Awards and on December 20th will be presented with the Prime Minister’s Oranga Tamariki Award.
To look after himself, Ihorangi spends a lot of time talking to family and friends and making sure he makes time to go for walks and be active.
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