Anyone who saw some of our youngest Auckland Big Buddies on TV3’s The Project in September will know that younger men are stepping up to make a big difference in the lives of boys who don’t have a dad around.
These men are at the lower end of the Millennial generation bracket, but we talked to two Wellington Big Buddies, who are both in their 30’s and not planning on having kids anytime soon. For them, mentoring boys is a meaningful way to give back to the next generation as well as their community. They’re keen to share that, what has traditionally been an older man’s game, is now open to men of any age, with a good heart and some weekly time to share…and a drivers licence!
Says Big Buddy to Ollie, Ryan Nicholson:
“Younger men have a lot to offer. I work in IT and know that we can relate to understanding social media, for instance. I want to teach Ollie that we do want to use technology to better our lives, but that it is also important to be aware of the risks.”
Ryan was also interviewed recently in The Dominion Post siting today’s young tendency to believe the carefully curated lives on Instagram.
“If you see something that looks like success, a lot of work and time will have gone into creating that. I felt I could definitely teach a young person about this. On this subject, one of the things I think it’s really important to teach children about is failure. One of the things I’m passing on to my Little Buddy is to understand that all of us make mistakes.”
He explains that the first time he took Ollie out, he got his four wheel drive stuck.
“It was a perfect example of looking at situation and saying, hey, I made a mistake here but let’s look at why it happened and find a solution. When the truck got stuck, that’s what we talked about: I asked him, ‘Why do you think this happened?’”
Wellington Mentoring Manager Dave Burcher has seen the signs loud and clear: “I’ve definitely seen quite a swing to younger men applying, and that’s just in the four or so years I’ve been with Big Buddy.
“When I started, younger guys would enquire, but during the screening process decided they couldn’t put that time aside. They were still very much busy living their lives. But something has changed and now they’re coming in saying they want to give back to something, to help other people, and they’re going right through the process.”
This is actually a well reported global trend that shows careers and developing compassion go hand in hand for many in this generation. Surveys also show that many Millennials are doing this community work before they have children, if they even have them at all.
What better example of these sentiments than Wellington Big Buddy and Millennial, 30-year-old Thomas Ronan.
“We all have a responsibility where children are concerned. Half the problem we have these days is the distinct lack of community around us, which is a symptom of the individualistic outlook we have adopted the last 20 or 30 years.
“Personally, I don’t have any strong intent to have kids. Less now with my generation, but traditionally there has been this assumption that you should just have kids, that you should want them. Millennials are not necessarily choosing to have them. What I do absolutely want is to see, however, are communities that enrich everybody.”
It’s this thinking that is ironically prevalent in anyone who becomes a Big Buddy – they all want to make others’ lives better.
“So being able to do this as part of the Big Buddy programme is an absolute joy” adds Thomas. “And people should be aware that it’s not such a selfless thing actually, because I get so much out of it. Even though I don’t want children, I find immense value in being able to do something for children that need it.”
The Wellington region needs more men like Thomas, Ryan, as well as Gen X and the Baby Boomers. Thomas urges men to step forward and imagine the ripple effect their choice to give back is going to have around them.
“I think when you become a Big Buddy you’re actually making a better community. You’re starting a chain reaction and yes, sure, it’s just me spending that time with one boy, but if he’s happier, that affects all these relationships, and so on. Everyone’s life is lifted up. What we’re doing is far more than the sum of its parts.”
There are several ways to help a boy without a father in his life. If you’d like to become a Big Buddy like Thomas, apply now. If you’d like to make a donation to help the whole organisation reach more boys like Ollie, please visit this page.