Big Brothers, Big Sisters Rotorua provides one-on-one support for primary and intermediate aged children by matching them with an adult mentor. They are currently working with 50 children and the mentors spend quality time with their matched child to help relieve some of the pressures they might be facing.

“Many of our children lack one-on-one adult attention for various reasons – busy households, disabilities, an absent parent etc. and we know that many behavioural issues are because kids want attention,” said Melissa.

“It’s not about fixing that child, or even being there to talk to them about things – it’s about helping them forget about the challenges they are facing; forget about school, forget about social pressures, what’s going on at home – they have this special person all themselves who gives them their undivided attention.” she said.

“Many mentors go above and beyond and often make a life-changing difference to our kids. We’ve had a mentor learn that their child had never been to the beach before, so the beach became their routine each time they met. The child had never swum or owned a swimsuit – so we arranged a swimsuit and our mentor taught them to swim.  Some kids have never ridden a bike before so their time together is spent learning how to ride, and suddenly that child has gained confidence and independence and rides all over the place – it’s so rewarding seeing these kid’s flourish. Many children choose to stay in touch with their mentors once the programme has ended and recently one mentor even taught his past pupil to drive,” said Nicki.

“We’re here for the children and whānau, and we’ll try and help in any way we can.  In exceptional circumstances we have access to a small fund that is supported by local businesses which is really helpful as sometimes we can use that to break down barriers that can make a big difference to our families. Sometimes we’ll source a second-hand bike and have it fixed up so a child can have their own bike, or we’ll fund a pair of rugby boots if that’s what is needed for one of our kids to play rugby.” said Melissa.

“There is evidence every day from our children that Big Brothers Big Sisters of Rotorua makes a direct measurable difference to the children on the programme. It warms our hearts to see the children grow and experience things they never have before, it just opens up a world of possibilities for our tamariki,” said Nicki.