"It is great knowing Big Brothers Big Sisters Taranaki is in safe hands," says Jo Patterson, adding she is enjoying sharing the office with Brenda Buchanan who has taken over as the case manager for the Stratford branch of the organisation. Jo was in the role for eight years and has now moved to work on a new project under the same organisational umbrella as Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) Taranaki.

"It is great to have Jo literally sit by me as I learn the ropes," says Brenda.

Not only is she a great source of knowledge but she is good fun to work with.

There is certainly plenty of laughter in their office in the Stratford Community House on Juliet Street.

"The location is perfect," says Brenda. "There are so many great groups and organisations who use the place as their base, the networking opportunities are fantastic and I am finding out about all sorts of great initiatives in our town."


Brenda says her own experience of bringing up her two children, alongside her previous employment as a teacher at Marco School, has shown her what a great place the district can be for children.

There are so many great opportunities here and so many amazing people who can enrich the lives of our youngsters. Through Big Brothers Big Sisters we are able to ensure that more young people in our town benefit from these great things and people.

Asked what it is that appeals to her about the BBBS programme, Brenda's answer is immediate.

"Everything! Seriously though, it is an excellent mentoring programme and seeing the successful matches made is really rewarding. I know so many people who volunteer as a Big Brother or Big Sister and I see how much difference it makes to their own lives as well as the lives of the children they are helping."

Kids need to be active and their brains stimulated, says Brenda, "and BBBS sees youngsters matched to people who may take them swimming or share a hobby such as woodworking with them".

"Some of them spend time going for walks or playing a sport while others bake, do puzzles or something else. Every adult brings something that enriches the life of the young person they are matched with, and that makes my job so rewarding."

Brenda says she also loves that there is more than one way to get involved with BBBS.

"Not everyone is at a stage in life where they can be a Big Brother or Big Sister, but that doesn't mean they can't join in and help. We have wonderful people who sponsor things like swimming lessons or donate to individual events or trips we organise. It means everyone is able to help in some way and know they are supporting a fantastic community organisation."

Want to get involved or find out more. Whether you have an hour a week to give to being a mentor to a young person in our community or if you would like to support the group in another way, Brenda would love to hear from you. She is at the Stratford Community House every weekday between 9am and 1pm or you can call her on 027 520 8336.