Big Buddy inspired to teach after three life-changing years of mentoring

Jason and Raffael time out

Building Estimator and Big Buddy, Jason Young, has been so inspired by three years of mentoring Little Buddy Raffael, that he’s decided to down tools and start teaching instead.

Jason has been clocking on at the ITM building yards for 30 years, and the Christmas-New Year break has been the same most years – traditionally a time for doing up the house, and seeing friends and whanau before its time to head back to the yard again.

However, 2020 has seen the 49-year-old Papatoetoe man sitting down to apply for scholarships so he can fund full time teacher training at the Auckland University of Education in 2021.

Jason and Raffael at the Glowworms in Totara Park

The inspiration came from seeing what a difference he was making to one boys’ life as a Big Buddy.

“You know, I get Raff for quite a small amount time, and yet it’s had such a big impact. I thought, how cool would it be to influence young boys for 6-7 hours a day. I think these early years are the key time for kids. I still remember the influence my primary school teacher had on me.”

Raffael, 10, moved down to Whakatane with his mother at the end of 2019, but he’s still in touch with his old buddy every week, and is welcome to come up to Auckland to stay with Jason’s family.

Coupled with his teenage son flying the nest, Raffael’s move helped Jason realise that he definitely wanted to keep making a difference. It all crystallised one day while he was on sick leave.

“Last year I was off work with an injury for a while. One day I was swimming and had one of those moments when you’re staring at the bottom of the pool and everything becomes a bit clearer. I thought, ‘You know what? Let’s sell our house and move into one of the smaller ones next door, have my mum come live with us, and get rid of the mortgage.’

“I then went home and told my wife and she said, ‘What are you going to do then!?’ That’s when I told her I wanted to go to university to train to become a primary school teacher.”

Jason realises that as he comes up to 50, he’s naturally going to be assessing his future. This is also a common age for men to become a Big Buddy, because their children leave home, they have a better work-life balance, and still want to give something back.

He thoroughly recommends men of all ages and walks-of-life to find out more about mentoring a boy like Raffael, if making a difference is something they’d like to do. But be prepared for it to transform how you think too, he says.


Raffael’s whanau Christmas with Big Buddy Jason

Jason explains that his own ‘way’ of being a Big Buddy relates to his Maori approach to family.

“He calls my wife Aunty, and basically I’m an Uncle. He comes to our family Christmases and everyone buys a gift for him – he’s just part of the scenery which I realise is not how everyone else does it. I have respect for every other guy who is doing this, on every level…at the end of the day, it takes a village to raise a child you know?”

Big Buddy looks forward to hearing about Jason’s journey to teaching, and is immensely grateful to him and all the other men who become Big Buddies. We are always looking for more men to make this positive difference! Learn more about becoming a Big Buddy right here.

Sharing this article

Posted in

Get the latest news from Big Buddy