Are you willing to spend a couple of hours a week helping a child and making a new friend?
If your answer is yes, Helen Bond wants to speak to you.
She is the co-ordinator for Family Works Buddy Programme, a Presbyterian Support initiative.
“I would love another 40 more adults, because I can never stop finding kids that have a need,” Mrs Bond said.
A new recruitment and training programme was beginning in March, with space for up to 40 people to train as buddies.
“We recruit adult volunteers from our communities and match them with kids that have been referred to the programme,” Mrs Bond said.
Men in particular were needed for the ongoing commitment of 2-3 hours each week to become a buddy to children between 4 and 12 years old.
Volunteers would need to be available for a one-day training session on March 17, plus an evening session on March 21.
Police checks and referrals would be part of the vetting process.
The children could have various reasons why they had been referred to the programme, including problems at home, belonging to a solo-parent family, low demographics or people who were “time-poor”, Mrs Bond said.
“It’s a programme about building relationships and modelling behaviour,” she said.
Nick Loughnan, of Alexandra, became a buddy to a 6-year-old boy a few years ago.
“It’s been a really good match from the start because we got on and he enjoyed coming out here,” he said.
“There were things going on in his home that were pretty challenging at the time, and it just seemed to be a very useful addition to his life to have me involved,” Mr Loughnan said.
“He’s got a really appreciative mum who really valued the input of the programme.
“He seems to want any excuse to come out, and he is more than welcome. He is a lovely kid,” Mr Loughnan said.
There was a monthly commitment for the adult buddy to go to supervision meetings, he said.
“They’re good because everybody has issues at some stage and you are never quite sure if you are on track if you have problems.”
It had been a very successful process, and he and his wife had continued to welcome the boy into their lives, he said.
“He’s part of the family. He’s got some great qualities and it’s really nice to see him growing up,” Mr Loughnan said.
The commitment of time had not been a big problem, he said.
“That has been the thing that probably I have found quite extraordinary, that it hasn’t been a huge commitment from us but it means so much to him and his mum.”
“You don’t know just how valuable the input is, and it is certainly needed,” Mr Loughnan said.
“I think that people are put off by the fact that taking on a kid is a big commitment, and really it’s not.”
“The important thing is spending a little time with them.”
Mrs Bond said they asked for at least a 12-month commitment from volunteers, but 24/7 support was available, as well as the monthly supervision.
The focus was always on low or no-cost activities, Mrs Bond said.