His story isn’t a happy one, but the Christchurch man radiates peace as he sits in his home in suburban Sockburn and plans out a future helping others.
From the faded tattoo on his face, to the knuckles scarred from a lifetime of fist-fights, there isn’t much about Skilling that would immediately say “I can help”. But it’s precisely in this past that he has gathered the experiences he needs to bring others out of the holes he once found himself in.
Skilling grew up in a turbulent household in Invercargill. It’s an upbringing he remembers clearly.
“There was exposure to drugs, gang members, fights with my family. Jake the muss type stuff. It was just a series of unfortunate events.”
Violence, of both physical and sexual nature, peppers the memories of his childhood in Southland. One of the youngest of 12 siblings, including two sets of twins, he and his siblings would often get up to mischief. The lack of structure in his upbringing led Skilling to petty crimes from a young age.
School was no respite for Skilling. With ADHD and a lack of structure to his household, – he found himself alienated by the system and lashing out whenever he could.
“I was always angry at those ages, suicidal even. Dunno where that stems from, even to this day.”
Skilling says despite his troubles in school, he still remembers the teachers who cared for him and he maintains contact with some of them to this day. He ended up requiring an adult to constantly supervise him at school.
When Skilling was seven, after an outburst at school, he was walking the streets of Bluff, crying. A woman stopped to talk to him, and listened, buying him an Ice -cream. Even now he tears up recollecting the memory.
“It was the first time anyone ever actually listened to me. My first encounter of genuine love and compassion.”