Rocco the labradoodle is on the hunt for jewellery, scarves, handbags and purses.
While he would probably rock the look, they are for a fundraiser the charity he works for, MentorEd, is running next month.
MentorEd provides weekly mentoring to children at their school. It was started by Palmerston North's Mercedes and David Hayman in 2017.
As parents and foster parents they had noticed there was "chronic underfunding" for teacher aides to work with children living with adverse childhood experiences. These could be parents with mental health challenges or addictions, family harm, living in transitional housing, poverty, in the care of the state, or a family member in prison.
The Haymans, who are English and moved to Palmerston North in 2014, became aware some Kiwi children were at their sixth primary school. In England every class has a fulltime teacher aide.
Mercedes Hayman says adverse childhood experiences mean children can miss out on so much education and don't always feel safe at school. MentorEd trains volunteers to go into schools to provide extra support for children in a trauma-informed way.
"When we understand what's happened to a child then we can understand why they behave like they do," she says.
MentorEd ran a pilot at Milson School in 2017 and now works with nine schools. In the year April 2020 to March 2021 it supported 11 schools with 25 volunteers and mentored 48 children one to one.
Hayman says she wanted to prove a point she could do something as opposed to nothing and was at a time in her life when she could give back to the community and do something rewarding.
Volunteers use fun educational activities to build relationships and talk about big feelings, providing a buffer against the stress a child might have experienced or still be experiencing. The activities include music, art, sewing, sport, cooking, gardening and maths games.
Rocco, a trained therapy dog, joined the team in 2019. He works with reluctant readers and speakers; they read to him and are then focusing on the dog rather than a sea of eyes.
"They love coming to see Rocco, it's a motivator," Hayman says.
Rocco also helps mentor and child sit and talk. When teachers have a class of 30 they don't have time to do that with a child, she says.
Rocco has his own Facebook page and email email@example.com. He writes to children helping them with their writing. MentorEd also supplies schools with books children can take home and keep.
MentorEd works in partnership with teachers, Oranga Tamariki and the police. It also pays for children to go on camp, pays for laptops and school uniforms, and funds digital learning packages.
MentorEd is about equity, trying to give opportunities and experiences to children who might not otherwise have them. It's not about giving people more, it's giving them enough so they stand a chance, she says.
Since Covid, there have been increased requests to help children with anxiety.
"Just having another person there to talk things through so they feel heard."
Programme coordinator Fiona Cain, who joined MentorEd a year ago, is the organisation's first paid staff member.
Donations to the sustainable shopping fundraiser can be left at Hancock Community House in King St.