South Taranaki Star
Being a big brother has affected Gerard Langford far more than he ever expected.
Signing up to the Hawera branch of the Big Brothers, Big Sisters programme last year, he was matched with eleven-year-old Kyo Torrey.
They share so many interests that it wasn't long before they both started to feel as though they had always been a part of each other's lives.
The programme is in desperate need of more volunteers, particularly men, to match the large number of kids waiting on their database.
All that is required is one hour, once a week - more often if you want, to spend time with a young person.
Mr Langford said he worried at first that he wouldn't have the required time to commit to Kyo but says they spend every Saturday together as well as Monday's after school and he's always looking forward to the next time they will meet up.
Kyo is the same.
He says with a child's simplicity; "life is better than it was before, I have more fun".
Kyo even enjoys visiting his friend's favourite places, garden centres, because of their close bond.
Despite being nervous at their first meeting, a visit to a local cafe for ice cream soon won Kyo over.
Writing a list of all the things they wanted to do together was a good way to get over any initial awkwardness.
Next year, Kyo said they will take their first holiday together, heading off to Wellington to visit the Zoo, shop and indulge in a bit more ice cream.
Mr Langford has seen huge changes in the painfully shy boy in the 18 months that they have built a friendship which will last a lifetime.
"I've seen him grow up a lot, he's grown more confident, he shares his feelings," Mr Langford said. "He's much more confident with other people and talking to people."
He credits the Big Brothers, Big Sisters programme with bringing the pair together and said there had been benefits for both.
"Every week I'm excited when Kyo is coming around on Saturday," he said. "When you've got more important things to worry about like this little guy, it brings a certain perspective to things, I really value that. He's comfortable enough to just be himself, which is pretty cool."
Boys outnumber girls nearly two to one on the waiting list for adult mentors.
Senior Constable Paul Lampe, the programme manager, said inquiries from potential women mentors outnumbered males nine to one. "So we desperately need men to mentor our young boys," he said.
The programme started in North Taranaki in 2007 and has expanded into Stratford and Hawera in the past couple of years. "I suppose we are the victims of our own success," he said.
"The more positive outcomes we have with children, the more children are referred to us by schools, parents and other agencies."
The ideal mentor is simply an ordinary, everyday adult who can spare one hour a week and wants to have fun. They also need to commit for one year.
"When any child or young person is isolated from positive adult mentors, their peer group become their key influence," he said. "Without an older person for stability, they're like a ship without a rudder."
Contact Paul Lampe on 06 759 8854.
- © Fairfax NZ News