Good men wanted to make difference in young lives

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Dunedin men from all walks of life are being urged to consider giving up just a little of their spare time to make a big difference in the lives of local children.

The Presbyterian Support Otago Buddy Programme has a waiting list of more than 50 children, and is in urgent need of adult “buddies”, especially men, to take on the role.

PSO Buddy Programme co-ordinator Marco Kleinlangevesloo said by spending a couple of hours a week with a young person, an adult buddy could create a positive bond that could be key to the development of a young person.

“Sometimes you just need a buddy,” he said.

“We have quite a waiting list and some children, particularly boys, have been waiting quite a while.”

People who became adult buddies with the programme did not need any special skills, they just needed to have the right motivation and be willing to share their personal interests with a young person, he said.

“Buddies come from all walks of life and are of all ages – from people in their 20s through to their 70s.”

Among the existing team of buddies are Dunedin men Tom West and Ryan Standring – both buddies to growing young men.

Mr West, a Dunedin insurance broker, became involved in the programme five years ago, initially in support of his ex-wife.

In July, 2017, he took over as sole buddy for the young boy, now 10 years old, spending time with him at the weekends on mainly active, outdoor pursuits such as hiking, taking the dog for a walk, going to the beach, “shooting hoops”, and the occasional movie.

“It has been very interesting to see him grow up from a child to a youth, and to be with him through those changes,” Mr West said.

“He is an animated, outgoing young guy, so spending time with him is always entertaining, and we both get a lot more out [out] of it if we are outdoors being active.”

While it is good to give his young buddy opportunities to try new things, Mr West regards his buddy role as mainly providing a consistent male presence in the youngster’s life.

“It’s all about spending time together – so long as he is enjoying it, that’s what is important.”

Mr Standring, who works as an administrator with the New Zealand Police, has been buddy to an 11-year-old boy for the past 18 months.

“Everything is going really well, it’s fun to see him progressing and developing,” Mr Standring said.

The pair like to play basketball at the park and do other sporting things together – with a spirit of healthy competition.

“We are both quite competitive, so that can add to the fun.”

Due to his work commitments, Mr Standring sees his young buddy mainly during the week, and a flexible arrangement as to times ensures it works out well for him.

As the relationship between the pair develops, the young man gets to experience more of Mr Standring’s life through occasional visits to his home for dinner.

Mr Standring said he received good support from Mr Kleinlangevesloo, who was “always just a phone call away” if advice was needed.

Mr Kleinlangevesloo said the PSO Buddy programme was established in Otago 26 years ago and now operated nationally through Family Works.

which has great benefits for both the children and the adults who take part,” he said.

People who step forward to become a buddy have an initial interview, put in an application, undergo a police check, and then have a final interview. They also receive training.

To register your interest, phone Presbyterian Support Otago on 477-7115 or email Marco Kleinlangevesloo via marcok@psotago.org.nz.