Riders’ perspectives on the Ride

For eleven years, White Ribbon Riders have travelled New Zealand every November visiting towns, large and small, to connect with people, share their experiences and help to prevent violence by changing attitudes and showing that a different life is possible. We wanted to connect with a couple of our Riders to get their perspectives on the Ride and share their experiences and reasons for getting involved.

We spoke with White Ribbon Rider (and now also Ambassador) Maurice Tarei who has been regularly involved since 2015 and Simon Garwood who has been involved with local Ride events and activities for some time but undertook his first full Ride last year.

We recently undertook some research into the impact White Ribbon is having on individuals and a significant number of those interviewed highlighted the value of hearing from Riders, who were open and honest, and how that connection helped individuals to commit to change.

One of the reasons Maurice got involved was because of his own background. He is an ex-gang member and when he left that environment he needed some guidance to help rebuild his understanding of healthy whanau relationships. He grew up with some of the unhelpful stereotypes like “men don’t cry” that we have been trying to challenge in the #unspokenrules campaign. Maurice has undergone a metamorphosis and he wants to support others to do the same. He has a lot of empathy for people who find themselves in challenging situations and knows how important it is for them to connect with genuine people that will help to set them on a more positive path. He is especially keen to ensure we are “securing the next generation, that there is a structure inside the school if you need to talk to counselors and things like that.” The fact that Maurice and his wife Mechelle can both go on the Ride and work together sharing their stories is also an important aspect of the Ride for him.

Both Maurice and Simon commented on how strategic the Ride leader Takurua Tawera and other senior Riders are in planning who will speak and ensuring they have the right people for each situation and that those Riders have the time and support necessary to really tailor the message to the specific group they are working with. Maurice also noted the significance of having Riders steeped in Te Reo Maori who have a real strength in that area.

Maurice highlighted the importance of authenticity, “society can be chaotic and young people are looking for role models but they need to be authentic”. Some of the Riders have been through “the school of hard knocks” and in working to change attitudes and behaviours they approach the Ride with good humour and provide support for one another.

Simon commented on the nature of the ride family itself and the way he was fully welcomed and accepted by all the other riders and enjoyed being part of this amazing group of people, who have decided to dedicate a part of their lives to this cause. “I learned so much from each of the other riders, to see some them in front of the various groups, how they interacted, how they touched the hearts and minds of those attending. I was truly humbled by the experience.”

As Simon pointed out: “The Ride is great for getting the message across because from a young person’s point of view, “bikers” for want of a better word come with a certain image and expectation, and for them to turn up at the school or a public event, and speak and share a message that contradicts that image, to show vulnerability and be open. I think that really does work.”

As Simon watched experienced speakers tell their personal stories and weave the messages into them. He noticed “some in the audience in front of you breaking down and reacting to the message being delivered. The riders moved from the stage to those that had obviously been impacted.”

“It’s in these moments that connections are made and the Riders are able to comfort them, and also point them in the right direction for help, by providing them with details of local services in the area that can provide them with the support that they require, knowing we will be moving on.”

“The Riders with more experience can pick out subtler changes in people, and discreetly chat with the individuals so as not to draw attention to them. Some of these members of the public would have been the ones that needed assistance the most, and I was so glad that we had those in the group that have the talent and experience to first spot those people and secondly to be able to connect with them and then help. I was truly struck by how each rider displayed compassion for all those that confided in each of them.”

We are really grateful to both Maurice and Simon for their commitment to spreading the White Ribbon kaupapa through the Ride and for taking the time to share their experiences. To find out more about the Ride please click here.

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