Charity lines up new goals

SARAH DUNN
Last updated 13:00 27/01/2014

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Nelson's Big Brothers Big Sisters plans to establish a group of non-mentoring supporters and hopes to expand into Motueka.

The charity aims to help children aged 6 to 18 take part in new experiences by pairing them with adult "big brothers" and "big sisters" from the community.

The first Nelson match between an adult mentor and a child was made in 1998.

In his annual report, board chair Ross Newman described the past year as "eventful", saying the loss of several staff members meant the charity was forced to significantly reduce the number of matches it made last year.

It lost two full-time employees and one employee reduced her hours. Replacements were found for both vacancies but one position has been reduced to part-time due to funding cuts from the Nelson police.

The police still pay the programme director's salary and provide office space and associated costs, services and the use of a vehicle. Police spokeswoman Barbara Dunn said they valued BBBS' contribution "enormously", saying the organisation provided an invaluable service to children in the Nelson community.

Several police members gave their time voluntarily as members of BBBS' board, and a range of police employees were mentors on the programme.

"The work the organisation does is integral to our Prevention First strategy in providing positive support and role modelling to young people."

She declined to comment on the reduction of funding.

In 2012, more than 140 children were matched to adult mentors through BBBS, while in 2013 this fell to between 110 and 120 matches.

Mr Newman said BBBS had an obligation to maintain "excellence in match support and management" so that the programme would remain safe for staff, mentors and young people.

"The major growth in matches seen over the last three years could not be sustained without compromising the quality of the programme."

Mr Newman said now the charity had returned to a full complement of two full-time and three part-time staff, this year it would focus on finding, training and matching new mentors. At the end of November there were 37 boys and 11 girls waiting for a big brother or big sister.

"Finding new mentors, particularly males, is a constant quest for BBBS Nelson."

Programme director Rachel Rae said she hoped the charity would facilitate 140 matches this year. To keep children safe, BBBS had a screening process for prospective mentors that involved checks with Child, Youth and Family, the police and personal referees; and "quite intensive" interviews with the mentor and the children's families to determine their preferences and compatibility.

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"There's a lot of work around the matches to make sure everyone is happy and comfortable."

BBBS plans to develop a "Friends of BBBS Nelson" group made up of people who want to lend their support without signing up as mentors. Ms Rae said about a dozen people had shown an interest in providing goods and services, donations or their time.

"It's really making the most of all those people in the community who want to offer their support."

She said there had been a lot of interest from Motueka in the possibility of establishing a branch there, but the charity was still investigating whether this was possible. In order to open there, BBBS would need a small office and an additional part-time worker to staff it.

"Right now, the only thing holding us back is funding."

- The Nelson Mail

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