Bud­dies are ‘just mates’

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By SHEL­LEY GRECO

Kerry Row­lands un­der­stands how it feels to grow up with­out a fa­ther.

He lost his when he was just 13.

That may be the big­gest bond he shares with his lit­tle buddy, Eli­jah Sch­wenke, 11.

Row­lands is a men­tor with Big Buddy and met Eli­jah in Au­gust 2012 af­ter tak­ing part in a sim­i­lar pro­gramme in Lon­don.

‘‘When I got back I saw it in the lo­cal pa­per and thought about it for some time,’’ he says.

Big Buddy is a men­tor­ing ser­vice that re­cruits male vol­un­teers from the community to be­come men­tors to fa­ther­less boys.

Ev­ery week­end, Row­lands picks up Eli­jah from his Grey Lynn home and they spend two to three hours to­gether.

They go fish­ing, moun­tain bik­ing or go to the movies.

They have also been to Big Boys Toys and Ar­maged­don.

Both are in­ter­ested in ma­rine con­ser­va­tion and sport and are cur­rently train­ing for the Run Auck­land se­ries.

‘‘We are just mates re­ally,’’ Row­lands says.

‘‘One of the things I do like about Big Buddy is there’s no agenda.’’

Eli­jah was re­moved from his mother’s care as a baby and lives with his pa­ter­nal aunt, Am­ber-Jo Sch­wenke. His fa­ther, who he saw in­fre­quently be­cause of drug prob­lems, died a couple of years ago.

‘‘I think of Kerry as a brother,’’ Eli­jah says.

‘‘I look for­ward to be­ing ac­tive and do­ing ex­er­cise.’’

Row­lands mar­ried his long-term part­ner Kathy Eb­bett in Fe­bru­ary, and in lieu of wed­ding presents, the couple re­quested that guests make a dona­tion to Big Buddy, which to­talled $800.

‘‘It’s

just

some­thing that I be­lieve strongly in,’’ he says.

‘‘We don’t need any trin­kets for the house, we are fairly set up.

‘‘They don’t get a lot of govern­ment fund­ing.’’

The couple have an eight-month-old baby and an­other on the way, due in Au­gust.

‘‘I never ex­pected my re­la­tion­ship with Eli­jah would change when we had our daugh­ter,’’ Row­lands says.

‘‘We’re both used to big fam­i­lies and ev­ery­one just ex­pand­ing to in­clude who­ever comes along.

‘‘And for­tu­nately our daugh­ter was very set­tled, I just hope that hap­pens this time round.’’

Big Buddy is looking for new men­tors and Row­lands heart­edly rec­om­mends tak­ing part.

‘‘I’d have no hes­i­ta­tion in telling oth­ers to get in­volved.

‘‘You’re do­ing it much for your­self.’’

as

Big buddy: Kerry Row­lands, left, en­joys the time he spends with Eli­jah Sch­wenke.

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