Big broth­ers and sis­ters help out

Manawatu Standard - - Front Page - Ge­orge Heag­ney

Chil­dren need­ing con­sis­tent role mod­els in their lives are be­ing given a help­ing hand by Big Broth­ers Big Sis­ters of Manawatu¯ .

The pro­gramme matches young peo­ple aged 7 to 17 with adults who act as men­tors. Chil­dren be­come in­volved in the pro­gramme for a va­ri­ety of rea­sons, in­clud­ing be­ing from sin­gle-par­ent fam­i­lies or strug­gling to make friends.

Big Broth­ers Big Sis­ters Manawatu¯ man­ager Fiona Squires said the pro­gramme was good for the chil­dren be­cause they knew some­one would turn up who knew they’re worth some­thing.

‘‘Some of the kids may have had change in their life for what­ever rea­son,’’ Squires said.

‘‘It gives them con­fi­dence. With con­fi­dence you make bet­ter choices and it gives you more belief in your­self.’’

Big Broth­ers Big Sis­ters is a pre­ven­ta­tive pro­gramme, rather than one that tries to get chil­dren on the straight and nar­row after prob­lems oc­cur.

‘‘The young peo­ple have that one-on-one time, it’s re­ally im­por­tant. It’s hav­ing a con­sis­tent role model – a non­judg­men­tal, car­ing adult.’’

There are 34 matches in Manawatu¯ .

Squires said re­fer­rals could come from so­cial ser­vices, but fam­i­lies usu­ally or­gan­ised it.

One of their matches is Liam van den Brink, 23, and 11-yearold Xavier Win­ter, whose mother is a sole par­ent. The pair have been to­gether for about nine months.

Van den Brink used to work at the Lido Aquatic Cen­tre in

‘It gives them con­fi­dence. With con­fi­dence you make bet­ter choices and it gives you more belief in your­self.’ Fiona Squires, Big Broth­ers Big Sis­ters Manawatu¯ man­ager

be­fore-and-after-school care. Once he left the job he missed work­ing with kids, so his fa­ther sug­gested Big Broth­ers Big Sis­ters.

‘‘I thought I had some re­ally awe­some male role mod­els as a boy,’’ van den Brink said. ‘‘If I could be even half of that to some­one else, it’s pretty cool.’’

Xavier has just fin­ished at Park­land School in Palmer­ston North and en­joys go­ing to the park with van den Brink, or mak­ing tie-dye shirts.

‘‘[Xavier] loves it,’’ van den Brink said. ‘‘We usu­ally walk the dogs or go to the park and play to­gether, those are the two favourites.’’

Squires said men­tors learnt about them­selves and en­joyed the re­la­tion­ships they de­vel­oped with the chil­dren.

The Manawatu¯ pro­gramme has two men­tor­ing op­tions. One is a school-based pro­gramme where the big brother or sis­ter meets their lit­tle coun­ter­parts once a week at a part­ner school to spend time to­gether.

The other is com­mu­ni­ty­based, where the men­tors and chil­dren meet after school or at week­ends.

The Big Broth­ers Big Sis­ters pro­gramme started in the United States dur­ing the early 1900s and started in New Zealand in 1996 at Ta¯ maki-nui-a-rua (Dan­nevirke).

It has been op­er­at­ing in Manawatu¯ since 2010.

It is look­ing for more ap­pli­cants, who need to nom­i­nate three ref­er­ees and pass an in­ter­view and po­lice checks.

There is no cost to the chil­dren or men­tors, but men­tors can take chil­dren to ac­tiv­i­ties.

Big Broth­ers Big Sis­ters’ re­search showed young peo­ple with a men­tor had an im­prove­ment in their per­sonal and aca­demic lives.

MUR­RAY WIL­SON/STUFF

Xavier Win­ter, 11, and men­tor Liam van den Brink play at the Es­planade in Palmer­ston North as part of the Big Broth­ers Big Sis­ters pro­gramme.

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