From UK financial markets to Te Awamutu Big Buddy

Albert and Sam having fun

Big Buddy has almost 400 mentors working with boys today, and the same again of retired Big Buddies. June 2018 marks the start of our regular Big Buddy Interviews that share with you the valuable experience and insights of our everyday mentoring heroes.

A big move to New Zealand ten years ago also signalled a significant change in career for Big Buddy Albert Kobierzinski. Back in Manchester, UK, he was an administrator in the fast-paced world of stockbrokers. When he arrived in NZ he decided 35 years working essentially with money was enough and, inspired by his sister’s work in mental health, he felt drawn to focus on people instead.

Albert started out as a community support worker for IHC, dealing with people of 25 to 60 years. He then took a job with Hauora Waikato, a Kaupapa Maori organisation, funded by the DHB. He continues to work here as a support worker and is marking 5 years in a role he thoroughly enjoys, along with lifestyle block living in Te Awamutu.

All in all, no matter what you do, it’s about having some fun and giving Sam an opportunity to talk to someone.

While work and commuting to Hamilton encompasses all his time in the working week, last year he made the assessment that there was plenty of time available at the weekends for volunteer work. Making a positive difference to the lives of boys whose fathers are not around felt like the right fit, and he’s absolutely chuffed he made the decision to apply to Big Buddy.

“Even before I started I was really looking forward to this role, one where I could make a difference to a young life.”

Albert was matched with Sam Andrew just before Christmas last year; they are coming up for 8 months as Big and Little Buddies.

“In only 2-3 hours each week I am seeing a difference in Sam. I’m also getting good feedback from his mum, and I’m told he looks forward to our get-togethers at the weekend. I must admit that since meeting Sam, we’ve only missed 3 weekends and it’s been great all round.”

Albert explains that Sam came down to Hamilton from Auckland and having had a BB up there, he then had to get used to a new mentor in the Waikato. But apparently Andrew (Big Buddy’s Waikato Coordinator) found the ideal buddy match.

I find that I’m having fun when I see him having fun, when I see him gradually becoming happier. I know it’s only 2-3 hours, but I find that because of this, I get home and reflect that I really have enjoyed my weekend.

“Sam isn’t especially into sports and I wouldn’t exactly say I’m a rugby player either! That said, we have both actually taken steps out of our comfort zone and it’s been good for both of us. We did a white water rafting day in Auckland recently and even though Sam’s mum predicted that her boy wouldn’t be super adventurous, once you got Sam in the raft you couldn’t stop him talking! I was the one that was most nervous by far.”

Albert was equally pleased to discover that at a recent visit to the pools, they had a great time, even though the Mancunian considers himself a terrible swimmer.

“Sam has a strong interest in military warfare so we visited a very interesting private museum not far from Te Awamutu recently. The owner had collected memorabilia for over 40 years. When I took Sam there he was in his element. All in all, no matter what you do, it’s about having some fun and giving Sam an opportunity to talk to someone.

“As well as that, I find that I’m having fun when I see him having fun, when I see him gradually becoming happier. I know it’s only 2-3 hours, but I find that because of this, I get home and reflect that I really have enjoyed my weekend.”

Albert is most happy to carry on being a Big Buddy to Sam for the forseeable future, if that’s what Sam wants.

“Ideally, I would be there for the years that Sam grows into his teens, and be there as a supporter and listener. I believe that it’s all about being there for him.”

Across the country, we have over 90 Little Buddies waiting for a mentor, but only one third of that number to offer them. If Albert’s story inspires you, please don’t hesitate to pick up the phone and enquire about becoming a Big Buddy or finding a Big Buddy for your boy now.