When David Riley left Mangere College at the end of seventh form, he had no idea what he wanted to do; all he knew was that he wanted to keep on learning.
By Alexia Santamaria
Learning is a thread that has spanned David’s entire life, leading him to today and his company, Reading Warrior. Its aim is to get young people reading, inspire them with positive and inspirational stories from New Zealand and the Pacific and ultimately help them write their own stories, to be published for others to read.
Thanks to a donation from Mangere Development, David has recently set up home libraries for kids at Jean Batten, Robertson Road, Sutton Park, Mountain View and Southern Cross Campus Middle schools.
David is Mangere born and bred and has great memories of a childhood spent exploring the nooks and crannies of the area – mainly on foot. Days were spent with a bunch of friends, on the outskirts of the suburb, messing around in the creek, walking out to the airport, hanging out in the tunnels of the old Kiwi canyon. “It was a great way to grow up, with so many aspects of rural life in our urban setting.” He still has many friends from those days. “Mangere is a tight community, and my brothers and I grew up playing league for the Manukau Magpies, so spent a lot of time at the local clubrooms where you’d see the same families multiple times a week and get to know what was going on in their lives. I love that sense of community you get living here.” One of the things that David loves the most about the Mangere area is its multicultural nature. “One time in sixth form I made a really close Samoan friend. I got invited to his house and before I knew it – in true Pacific Island style – they had practically adopted me, feeding me delicious things I’d never tasted and calling me their Palagi son. Now I’m married to a Samoan! I love how cultures interact here, and how I can take the values and beauty of other cultures and mix it with the values and beauty of my own. While I work with a lot of Pacific Island and Māori kids, there are also so many other diverse groups here too. He also loves the ‘realness’ of the suburb and feels there’s no air of judgement – meaning people feel totally relaxed being who they are. “I was working with some young students the other day on a book celebrating our homes, and one of them said she loves how you see men walk down the street with no shirt or shoes in Mangere. While others might see it as rough, she saw it as them feeling comfortable to be who they are in the place they live. I loved her perspective. It’s amazing to live somewhere where you can just be yourself and not worry what anyone thinks of you.” While David works with children all over New Zealand, he really loves working with kids close to home. “I realised growing up I learned all about Queen Elizabeth but never about the history of Mangere. Recently I worked with young people to develop a book on that, so young Māori and Pacific Island kids here can see their own history as told through the eyes of people just like them. We discovered so many cool things – like the fact that Mangere mountain is actually called Te Pane o Mataaho – and I can’t wait to learn even more about this place I’ve called home my whole life. It was a great part of Auckland to grow up in, and even though the world has changed a bit since then, I wouldn’t want my own kids growing up anywhere else.”
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