Babies take tiny bow for anti-abuse efforts

Cory Francis has finished his first year teaching against violence in Rotorua. The special thing about Cory is he's a baby.

Cory, along with fellow babies and instructors, was congratulated during a Roots of Empathy baby celebration in the Rotorua District Council on Monday.

Roots of Empathy has been running in Rotorua for three years now, placing a baby and instructor in school classrooms to teach about having empathy for others.

This year, seven Rotorua schools studied a baby to see how other human beings respond to the way you treat them.

Roots of Empathy Rotorua mentor Bridget Gifford said the programme was only offered in four cities across New Zealand but had a huge purpose.

"Our city really needs this programme. We have terrible statistics about child abuse and bullying."

She said by looking at tomorrow's parents today they could make real change for the future, in preventing child abuse and getting children to think about others.

Mrs Gifford said they were looking for next year's funding, after a three-year contract with the Rotorua Energy Charitable Trust came to an end this year.

She said they had received a $15,000 grant from The Southern Trust but were dependant on a further $10,000 coming from somewhere else to keep the programme alive in Rotorua.

Cory's mother Sarah Francis said it was quite special seeing student response at Malfroy School during sessions with her son.

"When the class are singing nursery rhymes to Cory they get so much pleasure out of watching his enjoyment of the song," she said.

"If by the end of the year a seed has been planted for just one child that will mean they grow into being a better parent than they otherwise might have been."

The baby celebration included presentations to families, instructors and schools, speeches from supporters and cutting of a cake.

The programme runs at Mokoia Intermediate, Kaharoa School, Westbrook School, Selwyn School, Malfroy School, Kaitao Middle School and St Michael's Catholic School.

If you are interested in supporting Roots of Empathy or want know how your school can get involved contact Bridget Gifford on (07) 332 2077.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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