“You can overcome anything”

Having spent years in and out of detention, it took the sudden loss of a family member, the support of a youth worker and his own inner strength for Kinahoi to turn his life around.
Kinahoi has turned his life around after spending years in and out of detention.
Growing up, Kinahoi had difficulty reading and writing. Studying wasn’t “one of his strong suits” and he never truly engaged with learning.

He got kicked out of his Catholic high school and transferred to a public school in his local area.

“I wasn’t interested in school – I really only went to earn money from drugs,” he says.

Kinahoi was one of 11 children and his parents struggled to support the family financially.

They separated when Kinahoi was an early teen, and he started hanging out on the streets and getting into trouble with the police.

His mum had moved overseas to be with her family and he found it hard to cope.

“We didn’t have many options, so it led me down a troubled path,” he explains. “I’d get charged with smaller things here and there – until I ended up in juvie.”

From the age of 14, Kinahoi would spend the next three years in and out of youth detention.

“Everything had gone downhill so to get through, I just stopped caring,” he says. “I felt no remorse and my behaviour reflected that – I felt like to survive, I had to fight and I didn’t care who it affected.”

It was hard for Kinahoi to find people to support him during this time.

His father worked two jobs to stay afloat, and the kids didn’t get to see him much.

After each release from youth detention, Kinahoi would be unsure who he could go to for support or if they would stay in his life for long.

“I could be happy for a while again, but then something bad would happen and it would fall to pieces,” he says.

“I tried to make the most out of the cards I’d been dealt, or at least try to help my family survive.”

Thankfully, he ran into a youth worker from Youth Off The Streets in a park where he and his friends would visit.

“Youth Off The Streets would cook barbeques, give us food and chat about life,” he reflects.

“They provided a safe place to gather.

“If we showed up drunk or high, they’d let us sleep there until we were better. They’d listen to us and try to get us to think about our life choices.”

Outside of this experience, Kinahoi was left to his own devices and it was hard for him to stay on a positive path.

At age 18, and a few months after his final release from youth detention, he ended up in an adult detention centre for four years.

Once released, it took him another seven years to turn his life around.

He worked in scaffolding and other labouring jobs to get by, but his life was far from stable.

He continued to get into trouble with the law and was mandated by the court to leave New South Wales so he moved to Canberra. Soon after he pleaded guilty to an assault charge and ended up in detention for another few years.

It seemed like the cycle would never end, until the death of his sister changed his perspective.

“It opened my eyes,” he says.

“My sister had always wanted me to be a dad and positive role model for my son and encouraged me to be in his life.

“When she died, it made me realise that life is too short and if I don’t make changes, I’ll end up dead too.”

He started pursuing custody of his son, which he was granted after a five-year-long battle, and he started a t-shirt printing business. He named it 88 Custom after the year his sister was born.

“I wanted to make her proud, so I did everything to honour her,” he says.

Three years later, the business has expanded to a barber shop, custom garment business and fitness training.

“No one believed in me, but now I have three barbers and two apprentices,” he says. “I also provide personal training. From nothing, it has become something good in the community.”

Having suffered for years from alcohol and drug addiction and mental health challenges, Kinahoi also wanted to help others going through a similar experience.

He teaches young people through various school programs about strength and having a positive mindset by sharing his life experiences and running a workout session for them.

“I wanted to give them a little hope and especially show those suffering from depression and addiction that you can make it out of whatever hole you’re stuck in,” he states.

“I tell the kids it’s not worth the drugs and alcohol – chase your dream now,” he continues. “I learned the hard way – I’m 32 and only just starting to live life when I should’ve been doing it as a teenager.

“I tell them that it doesn’t matter where you come from or your circumstances; you can overcome anything.”

He says he’s trying to be the person he wished he could rely on when he was growing up.

“Every day, I tell myself to be the person I wish I had,” he explains. “At the end of the day, I had no one – but I want to be there for these kids.”

Throughout his years in detention, Kinahoi stayed in touch with a Youth Off The Streets youth worker and found support through him.

He recently formed a group to run from Wollongong to Campbelltown to help create awareness of Youth Off The Streets’ work and raise funds for its Dunlea Alcohol and Other Drugs Youth Service.

“Youth Off The Streets helped me along the journey and I wanted to let young people know that the service is there for them – and encourage those who are struggling to reach out for support,” he explains.

“If I can do it, anyone can do it,” he adds. “I did it to inspire young people that you can do anything you put your mind to and encourage them to reach their goals.”

Visit 88 Custom to learn more about Kinahoi’s businesses.

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