Room 19 at Knighton Normal School wants adults to know "every child matters".
That's the message the pupils want to send today, Buddy Day - an annual child protection community awareness campaign.
Buddy Day has two components. The lead-up to today began two weeks ago as schools and childcare centres around the Waikato took possession of 335 life-size cutouts of cardboard children. Adult Buddy carers take their buddies everywhere they go to generate conversations about child abuse at their workplaces, with their friends and with people they meet on the street.
Tracey Roose's class of 5-year-olds has spent two weeks naming, painting, dressing, and giving personalities to the buddies. One little girl sits down next to her buddy and talks to it as she does a puzzle, another pats her buddy on the shoulder and straightens its hair.
"The children want the community to know that every child matters," said Tracey. "One child said to me this morning that people 'need to know that children deserve respect'. That's pretty profound for a 5-year-old."
Buddy Day was developed by Child Matters last year. Child Matters CEO Anthea Simcock said research shows most New Zealanders think child abuse is a big problem in New Zealand. However, she said many people still think it is "someone else's problem."
"Raising awareness is very important. That's what Buddy Day is all about."
Buddy Day manager Janine Evans said Child Matters had received an overwhelming response from schools and childcare centres to be involved in decorating Buddies for Buddy Day. She said registrations for adult "carers" had come in thick and fast, and there had been interest from people throughout New Zealand wondering how they could get involved. The addition of Buddy Day Supporters' Packs, which can be ordered online this year, is the first step toward creating the national event.