Teenager speaks from heart

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At the age of 16, Leo Munro-Heward, of Wanaka, is proving an inspiration to the community for his leadership in preventing bullying and support for young people working through sexual identity issues.

Last week he was invited to speak to a lunchtime seminar on volunteering where he gave a presentation to 30 adults responsible for Wanaka’s not-for-profit, social service and volunteering organisations on what it means to be a volunteer.

Leo’s presentation focused on the Stick n’ Stones programme which he credits with giving him an opportunity to develop as a leader and a speaker.

He also spoke about the Wanaka Queer Straight Alliance, which he is working to set up as a place where there is “acceptance of sexuality and gender preferences”.

Through Stick n’ Stones Leo has attended courses in Wellington and Auckland and earlier this year received a Giving Back Award in a ceremony at Parliament.

Mount Aspiring College was a supportive environment, with 30 Stick n’ Stones members and the school taking part in a wide range of anti-bullying awareness events such as international Pink Shirt Day, he said.

Leo joined the Stick n’ Stones programme when he was 13 after experiencing bullying at first hand.

“My previous experience with bullying affected me and I wanted no-one to feel that way.”

The Stick n’ Stones programme was successful because it was run by young people who understood the issues their peers faced, particularly online, he said.

He finished his presentation talking about the how Stick N Stones programme met the values of this year’s Volunteers Week, the theme of which was live, laugh and share.

“We live in the world that we are in. We laugh and we share a lot of different stories .. we are different people from different backgrounds,” he said.