Big brothers and sisters help out
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.
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.