Community Development

Our Community Development program at Waipuna supports vulnerable young people to achieve growth and development.

 Hauora Trust

Impactful Community Development practice embraces complexity and is adaptive to change, focused on the needs of each individual young person and the social and environmental drivers in which they live their life. Our current activities within our Community Development initiatives include:

  • Adventure Therapy Team - offering at risk young people opportunities to explore and develop their own strengths and wisdom in a supportive yet challenging environment through nature and adventure activities
  • Programmes and Reintegration Team - supporting young people who have offended to develop insight and forge a path towards growth and development. 
  • Community Action Youth and Drugs Otautahi - providing support leaders from communities, organisations and young people to collaborate and create lasting changes in their environment that will promote wellbeing and reduce the risk of harm.

Adventure Therapy

The aim of our Adventure Therapy program is to increase personal resilience – the skills, strengths and relationships each young person has to help them get through life. The program has run for the past 18 years in Christchurch East. It was founded by Paddy Pawson in 1999 and first delivered at Aranui High School to young people who found their home and school life challenging.


Our Adventure Therapy programs are based on:

  • the relationship between facilitators and young people is the starting point of any developmental/therapeutic change  
  • successful interventions with young people are strongly connected to the systems around them – including their family, school and peers
  • young people benefit from experiences, in a safe environment, where they can be challenged, and receive feedback (from multiple sources), about the choices they make
  • the natural world provides unique opportunities for personal development
  • facilitated exploration, play and discovery allow young people to develop self-efficacy and resilience
  • high levels of both challenge and support are integral to development.

Benefits of Adventure Therapy

There are many definitions of adventure therapy and and a huge range of practices – generally they are interventions which use facilitated, challenging activities in natural, outdoor environments as a medium for therapy or development. Our programs are based on the experiential learning cycle.

The benefits of participating in adventure therapy include:

  • unique opportunity for engagement and relationship building
  • ability to work with live material
  • real challenges, risks and consequences
  • active learning
  • unfamiliar environments to explore how you react to different situations.

What people say about our adventure therapy program

"It takes them on a journey of exploration of themselves, which both the students and their families very much value."

"Adventure therapy works very effectively with teens/adolescents. The youth support model developed by the Waipuna Trust is the best example within New Zealand of a cost effective way to bring experiential learning to the greatest number of young people. It involves 9-10 weeks of individual casework, outdoor experiences and support for young people."

"The impact of this work, particularly on the young themselves, but also indirectly on their families and classmates was significant. We have had many students whom I believe, without this intervention, would have dropped out of school well before availing themselves of the many educational opportunities offered in a high school setting."

"The Adventure therapy model does effect change in young peoples’ lives that lives beyond the program throughout their lives."

"There is evidence to show that adventure therapy, when used as part of a whole package of youth development initiatives, can be a very effective way of engaging young people who are vulnerable to harm."

More information

Tel: (03) 386 2159 
Email: [email protected]

Programmes and Reintegration

Much of what we do at St John of God Waipuna is contracted through our government partners and an example of this is the newly formed Programmes and Reintegration team. We have co-delivered the Mauri Toa Rangatahi (MTR) programme in community and prison settings with the Department of Corrections for six years, over the past year we added the community-based Kowhiritanga programme for women and the Burglary Reintegration Support Service co-delivered both in prison and the community.

More information

Tel: (03) 386 2159

Community Action on Youth and Drugs (CAYAD) initiative in Canterbury

The aim of CAYAD is to develop community action initiatives that aim to reduce drug related harm in young people, as well as increasing community ownership and capacity to address this health issue.

CAYAD Otautahi is provided by St John of God Waipuna. We take pride in the special character of our agency, which is based on the key values of Manaakitanga (Hospitality), Aroha (Compassion), Whakaute (Respect), Tika (Justice) and Hiranga (Excellence). We believe in the value and uniqueness of each person who engages with our services.


  • Working in partnership with community stakeholders and agencies to promote effective policies and practices to reduce harm associated with the use by young people of illicit and other drugs.
  • Increasing informed community discussion and debate on issues relating to drug use, and increasing community capacity to positively address these issues.
  • Promoting positive/whanau responses to substances threatening the wellbeing of young people, their families and communities.
  • Reducing supply of drugs to young people.
  • Developing local capacity in areas such as education, employment and recreation to support young people and provide them with better life opportunities.

More information

Tel: (03) 386 2159