Mentors' mentor to hand over reins

Rachel Saunders is retiring from Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Rachel Saunders is retiring from Big Brothers Big Sisters.

After three-and-a-half-years as the programme director of Big Brothers Big Sisters, Rachel Saunders is handing over the reins.

Saunders embarked on her journey in January 2013 and has seen the mentoring portfolio double in her time at the organisation.

She said there were 98 matches between children and mentors when she started in her role in 2013.

Today Big Brothers Big Sisters has made 180 matches and mentors have done 12,000 volunteer hours, Saunders said.

"Which is pretty incredible when it's just our local community."

"But we've got that need for children to have that person to just give them a bit of attention, hang out and spend a bit of time with them.

"And be a positive role model for them."

Saunders said the past years as programme director have been "absolutely wonderful".

"The best moments are seeing the children's little faces light up actually.

"When you make a great match and you see their little faces sparkling and their eyes are shining and they're so happy, that's just a highlight.

"Everything is worth it."

Saunders said the Nelson Tasman region has been very supportive of the organisation.

"It's a really special thing because there's a lot of publicity at the moment with child abuse rates in New Zealand and neglected children in our country and in our community."

"This is one way of making a difference to that if we can't necessarily fix it as a big group thing - actually having an impact on a child's life is just life changing."

Saunders said that by helping one child, the whole community benefits. 

"It's like dropping a little pebble in a pond - it's a ripple effect, that child will have an impact on everyone they come in contact with and it makes a difference."

"Giving them that support means we make an impact in our whole community."

Saunders said she really enjoyed hearing the "great stories about how much the children have grown and what the mentors have gotten out of it".

She said the job was also at times challenging when a child couldn't be matched with a mentor or when it proved difficult to secure enough funding to keep the project going. 

"You hear about some really heartbreaking situations. 

"I think it's very difficult listening to those and trying to process that and still give that support to those people.

"It's a very busy job."

Saunders said she will miss the contact with the children, mentors and sponsors but that she will stay involved with the organisation through her position on the board.

"I mentor a little girl myself and we have so much fun."

"I would certainly be keeping on doing that."

Saunders said she is looking forward to spending more time with her husband, who also recently retired, and her children.

Apart from that, if you ever need Saunders, she can be found on the golf course.

"It's a really silly game but I'm fairly addicted to it so I'm hoping to spend a bit of time doing that."

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