Quality mentors key to National's strategy success
Quality mentors key to National's youth strategy success January 29, 2008
"Simply throwing money at high-risk youth mentoring programmes won't work," says awardwinning Big Buddy mentoring programme CEO Richard Aston. "It's about getting quality mentors and giving them enough time and support to turn high-risk kids around."
Richard Aston says National Party leader John Key is on the right track when he advocates mentoring as a salve to youth offending but he warns against quick-fix solutions.
"Twelve months won't cut it. These kids have taken years to get to the Youth Court and our experience shows us that it will take time and commitment from a professional mentor to turn them around. They'll need to be well trained and well supported mentors; people with solid mana who can engage with young people regardless of what is thrown at them. That takes great patience, a gentle persistence and an unswerving faith in the young person."
“Too many ‘youth’ programmes promise quick fix results or think a weekend boot camp and a cool web site will do the job. I think many young people are looking for identity and meaning and are struggling to find it in a world where Paris Hilton makes the front page. They need to be met person to person by strong adults who are willing to honestly face into the young person’s burning questions, namely: ‘Who am I? Where is my place in this world?’ If we don’t work with the fire of individuality that burns in each youth, helping to add it the hearth of community then some young people will burn down the structures of society, just to feel the warmth. They are not problems to be fixed; they are individuals demanding to be engaged with, individuals desperately needing rhythm and boundaries, individuals needing some sense of hope. They are our future."
Richard Aston visited high-risk youth programmes in the UK last year as a recipient of a Vodafone NZ World of Difference award. He has piloted a professional mentoring programme and is preparing to expand Big Buddy into working with high-risk youth. "I see enormous benefits in good men standing alongside our most at risk youth," he says. "It's not easy work but experience has shown us it can be done well."
Big Buddy currently covers Auckland and is expanding into Wellington, Christchurch and Rodney this year.
The life-changing programme involves carefully screened mentors being matched with boys who do not have a father or other male role model in their lives. The Big Buddy contracts to spend a minimum of two hours a week with the Little Buddy, doing things that increase the Little Buddy’s self esteem and giving him a sense of what it is to be a good man. Big Buddy supports the relationships through training and supervision of Big Buddies and education and occasional outings for Little Buddies.
Many matches have lasted for five years or more and have been a significant support to mothers, and increasingly grandmothers, as Little Buddies navigate the difficult teenage years.
For more information on Big Buddy, go to www.bigbuddy.org.nz