Giving boys a big buddy to turn to

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Evidence shows that when one good man cares deeply enough about a boy to show up regularly in his life, takes an interest in what he thinks and does, opens him up to a wider world and simply stands alongside him, that boy will have better outcomes.

The boy feels valued and this increases his self-confidence. Having a man who cares about his wellbeing tells him he is worth caring about. Because he feels better about himself, he'll try new things and learn resilience through coping with failure and success. He's likely to do better at school, be less likely to get into trouble and have improved job options.

Big Buddy is a free mentoring service run by dedicated professionals who recruit and rigorously screen male volunteers from the community to become mentors to fatherless boys aged seven to 14. The Hamilton branch for this programme opened in August.

Big Buddy has matched more than 680 boys with male mentors since it started in Auckland in 1997. In response to growing demand, the programme started in Wellington in 2008 and has expanded into Hamilton.

Hamilton coordinator Andrew McFadden completed extensive training for his new role and is now screening mentors and interviewing boys and mother/caregivers in preparation to match them. He said mentors get a lot out of the programme too.

"They get to be boys again! Mums and caregivers are freed up to do what they do best. It's a win-win relationship and we're very excited to be bringing the programme to the Waikato region," said McFadden.

Big Buddy mentoring works on the simple philosophy that boys need good male role models in their lives to become great men. For many reasons lots of boys don't have a father and while mothers do a courageous job raising their boys alone, they can't model maleness. And above all else, boys learn through modelling.

In the Waikato 5412 boys aged seven to 14 are living in female solo parent families. Of those, 893 (16.5 per cent) will have no contact with their father. They will likely never have a male early childhood teacher and are highly unlikely to have a male teacher in primary school. [Based on nine international studies].

Big Buddy does not replace fathers. If a boy has a father, Big Buddy carefully establish how much contact they have and will only get involved if contact is minimal and they have the father's blessing.

Ruth Kerr, media coordinator for Big Buddy said they are pleased to open a branch in the Waikato region.

"Big Buddy is thrilled to be able to respond to calls over many years from mothers, grandmothers, caregivers and men to open a branch in the Waikato region," said Kerr.

With support from G.J. Gardner Homes, Thomsons ITM and other suppliers, Big Buddy are able to sustainably fund the programme in Hamilton.

"It's important to us that we have local support and work together to change outcomes for fatherless boys at a community level. We need good men to step up as mentors and we need mothers and caregivers on-board with the programme," said Kerr.

To find out more about Big Buddy visit www.bigbuddy.org.nz

- Hamilton News

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