Saturday, 28 September 2013

Sol Blake: Challenging our Perceptions

Karyn’s Introduction:

Perceptions are scary things. They can shape the way we think and the way we respond to so much that life throws at us. Sol shares with us some of his previous life experiences and the messages he thinks it is important young people get- especially round their perceptions of what they can do and where they can go in life.

Its no secret that I have always loved the challenge of working with individuals and or groups who are so called labeled by society as “the unmotivated”. 

In 1992, My niece had informed me she was going to travel the world performing kapa haka with a group from Gisborne. I thought well if my niece could make this team and feeling pretty confident about my kapa haka skills, I hitched a ride to Gisborne to see if I could audition and gain a place in this Performing Arts Troupe called “The Young Ambassadors”. 

By the way, I should mention this is not even one year fresh out of High School and I had just been accepted to attend and train as a Teacher with the Palmerston North Teachers College of Education. When I finally arrived in Gisborne the tutor Tommy Taurima informed me that all  all the spaces had been filled. Feeling a bit bummed out I decided well its two days before orientation I may as well hang out with the niece and check this group out practice. It was then an opportunity arose. During a rehearsal where the troupe were learning to tap dance Tommy was trialling different performers to sing with the band Elvis Presleys “G I Blues” to my advantage being brought up in Mahia and the youngest of 14 the song is well known to me and after a few failed attempts from the performers my niece told Tommy that I knew the song. Long story short I was welcomed into the group, crack up! Ive always wondered what chain of events could’ve happened if I jumped on that bus from Wairoa to Palmy? and was it fate at a young age hanging around my older siblings and uncles and aunties parties on a Saturday night I got too listen to them sing Elvis songs, how ironic?. However before I digress again, After convincing my father of turning down The College of Education opportunity and possibly taking my first and only chance to travel and see the world, I moved to Gisborne. 

After a couple of months training and learning a variety of Polynesian songs and dances and learning to waltz, ball room dance and sing a number of old rock and roll, Spanish, Italian and Japanese songs. I finally made it too Auckland International Airport where I started my overseas experience, Flying to some of the most beautiful cities I had ever seen, Buenos Aires, Rome, Germany to name a few, as well as bussing too some of the most remote townships of South America and Europe over a period of about 2 months.

It was in one of these small townships in Poland where I met a group of young boys, who would’ve only been around year 5-7 hanging around our bus after one of our shows begging for food. A couple of them could speak a little English  so after giving them these packets of twisties which tasted like peanut butter ( funny the things we remember) and a small bag of the local bought fudge I found out these boys were living on the streets  and the only belongings they had was in a plastic bag. I found out they were following the dance troupes and scrounging what ever they could get in order to eat and live for that day.

It was then that I can recall quite vividly, I decided I wanted to work with people who felt they had a hard-life, the no one cares about me and why would anyone trust me or think I could achieve anything. I wanted to work with young people who felt they had it tough and I wanted to talk too them and let them know that although you may think you’re falling on hard times let me tell you a story about a group of boys no older than 8-10 years of age, whose first and and last thought isn’t…….I don’t feel like finishing my home work or why do I have to go too school? its boring, theres nothing to do at home its dumb! and Mum and Dad don’t let me do anything. These boys are wondering where am I going to sleep tonight? What am I going to eat today? Am I going to be alive tomorrow?

Returning back from my first ever Overseas Experience I was asked to give motivation speeches to different classes at a school in Gisborne. students. Looking back its funny how things come full circle in terms of my first ever presentation talking in front of a classroom of students. My presentation was about the many wondrous and not so fantastic things I observed and experienced, the people I met  i.e. the young homeless boys and in addition to that an emphasis on letting the students know who I was and where I came from. The students were intrigued and very interested and amazed about where I had travelled around the world and the many things I had experienced like performing the Haka in a Bull Ring in Argentina to visiting Auschwitz Birkenhau Concentration camp on my 20th birthday. 

These and many more experiences I shared with these students in the hope to motivate and inspire them to become more than just average, to take life's opportunities and go for it. Because….if a small country boy from Opoutama Primary School in Mahia can travel the world then what’s stopping someone from Te Karaka Area School in little ole TK from experiencing the fabulous things the world has to offer and realize that “hey my life isn’t that bad after all?”

Naku noa 

Matua Sol


  1. Thought provoking post, having seen the other side of life in other places it really is eye opening as to the problems some people face, it gives us a new perspective on what is important in life and that some of what we complain about are really "first world problems". We are not worried about food and shelter but that things are not interesting or about us. Perspective is everything in how our realities differ. Thanks Sol

  2. I bet you are an inspiration to many, Sol. And there's nothing small about you.