Boys without dads can miss out on a lot of things in life. A role model to look up to, a guide towards manhood, and that special father-son bond.
The long-term effects of this can be devastating, impacting a boy's development and the man they grow up to be. From social problems and low self-esteem, to poor academic performance and criminal behaviours, these boys can miss out on the opportunity to reach their full potential.
It estimated that in Tauranga, there are around 500 to 700 fatherless boys. Whether the boy has lost his father through death or estrangement, an absent father leaves a huge gap in his life that can be difficult to fill by a mother or a caregiver.
Big Buddy is a charity working to fill that gap, ensuring every boy experiences a nurturing one-to-one relationship with an adult male so he can live a life of purpose and meaning.
Their mentoring programme for fatherless boys matches a Little Buddy of 7-14 years of age, with a volunteer Big Buddy.
The two then spend quality time together, around two to three hours a week, doing ordinary things like fishing, walking on the beach, riding a bike, or simply hanging out.
The idea is simple yet profound in its reach. It involves a good man showing up every week into a boy's life, assuring him another man cares for him and giving him a reference point of what it means to be a good man. Just knowing there is a man he can trust to show up increases a boy's self-worth and improves his relationships.
The charity started operating in Tauranga in February this year and was in the process of interviewing and screening potential volunteer mentors when the lockdown hit.
While they could continue some of the process such as police vetting and checking references, one of the biggest parts of the job, the face-to-face work including interviews and psychological assessments, had to be put on hold.
Now out of lockdown, the charity has caught up and has already matched up five Big Buddies with Little Buddies.
Matthew Anderson-Smith, Big Buddy Mentoring Manager, says after an in-depth interview and matching process, it is rewarding to see their Buddies come together.
"We have had some incredible matches. There's one in particular – a young man and a boy we recently matched. We have what's called a match meeting at the boy's home with his mother present. Usually, I facilitate this and keep the conversation going, but with these two, I couldn't get a word in edgeways. They were best mates instantly, talking about all the same hobbies they had, and ideas about things they could do.
"There truly is a match for everyone out there, and to get to that point where they hit it off so well, we know we've done a good job. There is an incredible process behind it. Big Buddy has an amazing system and processes in place to ensure our matches are right – it takes a lot of time to get it right, but it's definitely worth it for those outcomes."
Big Buddy applied for funding through the WBOP COVID-19 Recovery Fund to help support Matt's role recruiting, screening and matching good men as long-term volunteer mentors in the region.
The fund, established by local funders TECT, Acorn Foundation, BayTrust and Tauranga City Council, approved $5,000 towards the role.
Matt says he is grateful for the local funders' support in helping them establish their much-needed service.
"The funding has been vital. With lockdown, a lot of our funding streams were put on hold, which was incredibly tough just as we were starting to establish ourselves here. Getting some of that seed funding from our local funders was huge for us – we are so grateful."
Matt says they are always in need of male volunteers to become mentors and recommends anyone interested to visit their website to enquire.
Acorn Foundation General Manager Lori Luke says Big Buddy's work is more valuable than ever in the wake of Covid-19.
"We all know how valuable mentoring is in a young person's life, but for those boys without a father figure, having a male mentor to look up can lead to transformational change – not only impacting how they see themselves, but the life paths they will take.
"It's fantastic we now have Big Buddy in our region, and we are so pleased this funding is helping them find and train mentors to support these boys. Now more than ever, they need that encouragement to help them get through what has been an incredibly tough year."
To learn more about Big Buddy, visit https://www.bigbuddy.org.nz/.