Cultivating youngsters benefit for town

By Ilona Hanne

Sport Taranaki announced further funding for Taranaki's Big Brother Big Sister (BBBS) programme, news welcomed by Jo Patterson, case manager for Taranaki Stratford branch.

Jo says it's funding like this, and Australian Worldwide Exploration's commitment to another three-year sponsorship, that enables BBBS to maintain offices such as Stratford's and to provide children with the maximum opportunities.

The Stratford Press caught up with one "Big Sister" Jacki Berry and her "Little Sister" Kareena, one of 22 current matches in Stratford.

"A lot of people could do this if they could see past their busy lives," says Jacki, who has been matched with Kareena for almost three years.

Jacki says the programme is great for both the children and the adults.

She adds she has "half the office" (McDonald's Real Estate) involved, with several of the staff also now volunteering.

When asked why she originally volunteered, Jacki responds: "Why not? Doesn't every child need guidance, support and love?

"If every person could just give a little of their time we would live in a better place."

She says it isn't just about doing lots of activities, but involving the child "in everyday life, simple things like setting the table or going to the library". She also goes to Kareena's school events.

Kareena says it's fun. "We do things like swimming and rollerblading together and we talk."

Jo adds that kids who previously felt they couldn't do much, now feel good about themselves. "We ask for a commitment of one to two hours, three to four times a month, which for most ends up being a regular evening or afternoon each week."

Jo has volunteers in Stratford, Eltham and Kaponga, with current openings for men in particular.

"There are half a dozen boys on the waiting list. They aren't naughty kids, just local boys who are lacking male one-to-one time."

Jo points out the programme doesn't just have a positive impact on the young person.

"The young person also has a greater sense of belonging to the community and is more likely to become a caring community person. In a small town like Stratford this is a real win-win situation."

- Stratford Press

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