‘No matter who you are, what you did or where you’ve come from, you can always change, become a better version of yourself.’ – Madonna

The desire to become a better version of myself came after seven years suffering a multitude of abuse from a multitude of people, my mother included. I believed my Mum when she said I was ugly & worthless, that I'd amount to nothing. It was a tough realisation that if I wanted a life, let alone a good life, I was going to have to create it myself. So I left school & home at 15 armed with two years high school education, the clothes on my back & $20 in my pocket.

I quickly learned the hard way that creating a life you’re proud to live is easier said than done, though. Because you only know what you know.

For my 17th birthday, gifted a modelling & confidence course voucher, I begrudgingly attended a course that ended up saving my life, and, as time would eventually tell, others' lives, too.

While it was valuable to learn about make up, working my walk and posing for best angles, I learnt something invaluable: we each hold the power to create & project any image we want, any time we want, despite what’s going down on the inside. The trick was in knowing how.

Inspired by my harrowing childhood, 30 years' extensive fashion industry experience (including as the co-founder of Red11 Models) and my overwhelming desire to build and nurture people, cut to 2016, and the brainchild of me, Amanda Betts, the Bridge The Gap Project was born.

Believing in a 'hands up' over 'hand out' mentality, we help youth help themselves, with a focus on at-risk, vulnerable, youth offenders and incarcerated youth.

Sure, there's many a great and gritty story as to where my inspiration came from to build BTGP. But alas, too many words, not enough time. If you'd like to know more about why it was crucial I actualise my dreams, roll up my sleeves and make it happen, check it out here

In the meantime, after two years of blood, sweat and tears, pouring almost every cent I had into BTGP and walking paths so dark, it made my childhood look like Sesame Street, I'm grateful BTGP is alive, kicking and constantly expanding. I'm eternally grateful for the incredible power of passionate people who've poured their love and belief into me so we can collectively breathe life into BTGP. It never ceases to delight me that our vision of helping people help themselves turn their seemingly impossible dreams into possible realities, is actually happening. 

Because we can only be as great as we believe we can be. 

For more on why BTGP is so important to me, see it in NEXT MAG here.

To check out what teens say about our workshops, see it in the NZ Herald here

For my interview with Paul Henry on a cure for teenage moodiness, watch it here

"When your child is struggling in the storm, swept from your arms and pounded by the waves of life, when you're desperate to reach them but everything you do pushes them further away, Amanda reaches through the storm, holds their head above the water, settles the waves and quietens the wind, and guides them on a course back to you, wrapped in warmth and with lifelines in their pocket to weather any new storm approaching. And all the while her other hand holds yours  saving you from drowning in your panic or becoming lost at seastrengthening, guiding you to build a safer, stronger vessel to hold your family safe"   
- Vicki Lowther