Child friendly buddy bench

North Taranaki Midweek - - YOUR LOCAL NEWS - CHRIS­TINE WALSH

To the un­trained eye, Spotswood Pri­mary School’s new buddy bench looks like any other piece of out­door fur­ni­ture.

But there’s more to the wooden seat than meets the eye.

The con­cept be­hind the buddy bench is that if a child is lonely or feel­ing ex­cluded and doesn’t have any friends to play with, they can sit on the bench and other chil­dren will know to reach out and make an ef­fort to in­clude them.

Red Cross en­listed the help of New Hori­zons Aotearoa, a men­tor­ing pro­gramme man­aged by the Bishop’s Ac­tion Foun­da­tion that as­sists boys to learn car­pen­try skills from pos­i­tive male role models in the build­ing in­dus­try.

‘‘Rather than just have the bench, get th­ese young men to build this bench be­cause it re­ally does add to the project,’’ the char­ity or­gan­i­sa­tion’s youth co­or­di­na­tor Ni­cola Earl said.

Red Cross bases its work on seven fun­da­men­tal prin­ci­ples, two were key to the project, hu­man­ity and unity.

‘‘We’re not just talk­ing about unity within the school grounds, but other or­gan­i­sa­tions, the young men on the pro­gramme, and schools,’’ Earl said.

BAF CEO Si­mon Cay­ley said his or­gan­i­sa­tion was proud to be a part of the New Hori­zons, which was a real com­mu­nity ef­fort.

Now bud­ding builders from three schools cur­rently par­tic­i­pate and Spotswood Col­lege was the first to com­plete its bench be­fore pre­sent­ing it to the pri­mary school. ’’They have been a fan­tas­tic group of boys and they have re­ally re­sponded to the op­por­tu­nity,’’ Cay­ley said.

Found­ing pa­tron of the men­tor­ing pro­gramme Kere Ell re­alised the projects po­ten­tial from the get go, where the boys could be high­lighted as young role models. ’’New Hori­zons is about em­pow­er­ing young peo­ple and giv­ing young peo­ple who po­ten­tially have some dis­ad­van­tage a bit of a hand up so-to-speak, which is ex­actly what the buddy bench is all about,’’ he said.

As­pir­ing tradie, Joshua Hart, 14, would have liked a buddy bench as a ju­nior. ‘‘I might have had more friends,’’ he said.

While the bench looks good aes­thet­i­cally it also fits in with the school’s core val­ues: aroha (love), ko­rero (speak), and ora (be well).

‘‘It’s re­ally nice to see the com­mu­nity com­ing in and re­ally fit­ting with our val­ues. It’s re­ally neat as a school,’’ prin­ci­pal Mark Fisher said.

Mark Fisher, Kere Ell, Ni­cola Earl take a back seat to Ben An­drews, Kanaan An­drews, and Joshua Hart.

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