Seasons brighter for troubled kids

Former newsreader Judy Bailey can't recall how long she's been a Seasons patron but says she loves the role.

"How could you not when you see the change in these children?"

Bailey was in New Plymouth yesterday helping celebrate 10 years since the children's peer support programme was introduced here. The programme is aimed at helping children deal with grief and distress from things like death of loved ones and family breakups.

Seasons, which originated in Australia, came to New Zealand in 1997 and started here in 2004 thanks to the work of Diana Lawrence and the Rev Deborah Garrett.

Lawrence was involved with Seasons while living in Hawke's Bay and wanted to do the same when she moved to New Plymouth in 2003.

After arriving she contacted Garrett and on July 21, 2004 the pair held their first programme.

"In that time we've worked with 500 kids in New Plymouth and run 163 programmes through 17 different schools," Lawrence said.

It was Garrett who introduced Bailey to Seasons and convinced her to become a patron.

"She was the first person to tell me about it," Bailey said.

"I went to see a programme and was astounded by how much the kids got out of being together and sharing their stories."

Bailey said getting involved was a natural progression, given her involvement with the Brainwave Trust, Hospice and the Grief Centre.

"Grief and grief support have been an interest of mine for a long time," she said.

Lawrence said Seasons was an activity-based programme offering children the chance to talk to each other about their feelings.

"It just gives children an opportunity and a place to chat. There's loads of drawing, making things and using up thousands of stickers," Lawrence said.

Children met for an hour a week for nine weeks and that's when the "magic" happened, she said.

"It just works. It's magical and life-changing."

Bailey said the feedback from parents was incredible.

Children who attended were are happier, less anxious, less aggressive, had better communication skills, were more focused and more confident, she said.

"It has to be a good thing."

While there are programmes run in Central and South Taranaki, Lawrence said the next step was finding a full time South Taranaki co-ordinator.

"There are thousands of children out there who could benefit."

Taranaki Daily News