Local hero a modest man

by Mike Isle

The remarkable thing about a conversation with Chris Martin is how unremarkable Chris thinks he is.

It is not false modesty. It is just a belief Chris has that his work with youth, as an advisor, mentor, facilitator and friend, is something which comes naturally to him.

“And it is not about me, it is about the young people doing it for themselves,” he said.

Chris Martin, who lives in Prebbleton, has been working with youth for over three decades. Currently it is centred around Selwyn and most in a voluntary capacity. Previously it was a paid role with, first, the Christchurch City Council and then the Selwyn District Council.

He is currently an active board member with the Canterbury Youth Workers’ Collective, Ara Taihoi, Selwyn Parenting Network, Generation House, Selwyn Creative Network and founder and lead consultant for 4YP, a Selwyn-based community care network for young people.

This month he became the first South Island member of Korowai Tupu (Cloak of Growth) —The Professional Association of Youth Workers, and recently he was presented with a Kiwibank Local Hero Award.

But again, it not about Chris, as he sees his role as a conduit.

“Right from the beginning I had the firm belief that the most positive thing you can do with young people is give them the confidence and belief in themselves,” he said.

“And one of the best ways of doing that is to give them the opportunity to use their passion and initiative — to create their own events, programmes and projects, and to reach goals that they themselves set. 

“it is important that they have that belief in themselves.”

Chris recalls one young person, one among many, whom he mentored through one of his youth programmes.

“That young man had issues, what some may call ‘an attitude’, but now his life has turned around and he is back with us, this time as a volunteer helping other young people.”

That sort of turn-around is not new to Chris. In fact, something similar happened to himself.

As a teenager, he saw himself going down the wrong track. That was until he met a youth worker who set him on a different path and then a school principal who diligently set about keeping him on that path.

“It was then and there that I think I knew what I wanted to do with my life, initially as a teacher and then as a fulltime youth worker.”

Today, Chris is doing just that. The most satisfying aspect, he said, was having young people grow that belief in themselves, and seeing them develop as leaders.

Being one of three Selwyn recipients of this year’s Kiwibank Local Hero Awards is also clearly satisfying to Chris. He is humbled by it and proud of it. 

But again he shares the credit, this time with his family, his wife Miriam, a local doctor and their two adult boys.

“It is something I could share with them, and some consolation for all the times I was away from them working in the community,” Chris said.

“As Miriam said she didn’t know that I did all that, so I think we can all be proud of winning that award and of what we have done.”