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Issue No. 374 October 2013

Big Brother makes a difference

Youngsters in Central District have new big brothers and sisters in blue looking out for them.

Re-cycling in action as 'Big Brother' Phil Ward and Thomas Nuku work on the salvaged BMX bike.
Photo: Sara Stavropoulos, Central District

In April 2012 Palmerston North Police launched Cops in Schools - a primary school-based programme providing adult role models for vulnerable children.


It works in partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters Manawatu, which matches six to 18-year-olds with mentors in professionally supported one-to-one relationships.


Fifteen Police staff currently partner children from six Palmerston North schools. A rollout to other areas and intermediate and high schools is planned.


Sergeant Phil Ward, programme manager and a Big Brother, says a highlight for him was partnering eight-year-old Thomas Nuku.


"I learned some of the difficulties Thomas faced every day," says Phil. "He struggled with learning, was disruptive in class and had a history of absenteeism which affected his ability to learn and relate to others.
"But most of all I saw an innocent kid who was struggling as a result of things outside his control."

The pair's activities ranged from kicking a rugby ball around - "pretending we were Dan Carter" - to building a go-kart and reconditioning a BMX bike rescued from the scrap yard.


"It was a really special moment when we pedalled the bike out from the caretaker's shed for its maiden journey. Thomas had a smile from ear to ear," says Phil.


Robyn Toothill, Thomas's principal at Somerset Crescent School, has seen a turn-around in his behaviour, as with other children involved in the scheme.


"This one-on-one time makes a big difference to Thomas’s life," says Robyn. "He has a consistent 'someone' who is there just for him, an excellent role model and listening ear. Our school is lucky to be part of this scheme."


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