Mentoring a good fit for Cave Creek survivor

Last updated 05:00 22/06/2012
Stephen Hannen
ROLE MODEL: Cave Creek survivor Stephen Hannen is giving back to the community by mentoring disadvantaged young pupils.

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Stephen Hannen survived the Cave Creek disaster; now he is a tower of strength for a vulnerable youth.

Hannen visits Jayden, his `little brother', for an hour each week at Central New Brighton School as part of a new in-school mentoring scheme.

Hannen met Jayden through his volunteer work with the Rock Solid programme.

The pair were matched for the mentoring programme, which began about two months ago, by the Big Brothers Big Sisters charity.

Jayden, 12, likes the time he spends with Hannen.

He comes from a single-parent family and would not otherwise get quality time with a strong male influence.

"We just play games, talk, shoot hoops or throw a ball around," he said.

"It's great."

Hannen has a better understanding than most of the challenges and stresses young people can face.

In April 1995 he was one of 18 people who plunged 30 metres down a ravine on to jagged rocks near Punakaiki, when the viewing platform they were standing on collapsed.

Thirteen of his outdoor recreation classmates from Tai Poutini Polytechnic in Greymouth died, along with a Conservation Department field centre manager.

Hannen was paralysed.

He plays competitive wheelchair rugby and runs a successful storage business near Belfast.

Hannen is that "someone that is more permanent for the kids – providing stability and reliability that they may not have at home".

"Having that survival instinct, overcoming and getting on with life, being able to pass some of that on is rewarding," he said.

Eight Central New Brighton School pupils receive a visit from a volunteer mentor once a week.

Principal Toni Burnside said the children benefited from the extra support.

"The kids light up when their mentors come to school and the mentors seem to really enjoy their time together too," she said.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Christchurch is seeking more volunteer mentors.

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