Simon Collins is the Herald’s education reporter.

Fatherless boys grow strong with big buddy

"Big buddy" Lawrence Stanaway reckons the main thing he has done for his "little buddy" Teina Kanohi is teach him that "male energy" can be trusted.

Teina, 17 next month, had no father figure in his life from the day his dad left when he was 2.

"What happened was the father went to work and just never ever came back," said Teina's mother, Karyn Carroll.

"That day I went into emergency labour and had [Teina's brother] Raakaha six weeks early. He wouldn't have known that happened. It was so weird."

Stanaway, a 67-year-old father of five and now grandfather of 14, is one of 640 men who have stepped up to mentor boys like Teina since the mentoring trust Big Buddy was founded in West Auckland in 2003.

Today the trust launches a drive to recruit more mentors for about 80 boys on its waiting list, and to raise funds for new branches in South Auckland and Hamilton.

The trust provides mentors when there is no "natural father figure" such as a stepfather or grandfather in a boy's life, and where the biological father is either dead, has no contact with the boy, or has limited contact and agrees to bringing in a mentor. Chief executive Richard Aston estimates that nationwide about 8000 boys aged 7 to 14 would fit those criteria.

"Below 7 my theory is that they are quite strongly attached to their mothers, and around about 6 or 7 the boys are starting to think, 'I'm a bloke'," said Aston.

"That's when they need another bloke to say welcome to the man tribe, you are one of us. And 14 is about the age of puberty where they toughen up and say, 'I don't need this shit'."

At 7, when Teina met Stanaway, he was still struggling with the trauma of losing his dad.

"He was very quiet and reserved, but when he lost it he lost it, tantrums and things like that," his mum recalled. "Lawrence sort of balanced his life out. Lawrence is very placid and easy going but still keeps his head on his shoulders and keeps Teina on the right track."

Stanaway said he and Teina just "hang out together" once a week.

In the early years they often went to the beach. These days they often just meet for breakfast to discuss Teina's career plans or have "philosophical conversations".

And for Teina, Stanaway has made "a massive difference". "It's given me someone else to get ideas off," he said. "It's like little subtle things, just like leading by example, sort of. Just like getting me to do stuff that I wouldn't normally do."

- NZ Herald

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