Buddies are ‘just mates’
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.
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.’’
Big buddy: Kerry Rowlands, left, enjoys the time he spends with Elijah Schwenke.