This week Big Buddy celebrates an incredible milestone of 1,000 matches of boys whose dads are absent, with good guys from the community, forming long-standing supportive relationships.
We spoke to one of the first Big Buddy matches who met 22 years ago and are still in regular contact. In fact, they are family. Josh Goodwin (now 33) met Mark Robson when he was 11. Josh is now a builder with a three-year-old daughter, Ruby, with his partner Chevonne. Here is their story.
“I didn’t know my father, and my mother Julie, wanted me to have a male role model in my life,” says Josh, who has two older brothers Michael and Paul. The family grew up in the 80s in West Auckland. “We started being matched for a year, and then we could decide after that if we wanted to carry on.” Mark, a vet, came over to Josh’s every weekend and they would go to the beach or a movie – do father/son stuff. Mark was always open. He told me to talk to him if I was ever in trouble, or just curious. I like to think I learned a lot from Mark. “We went to Motat and music things. Mark coached soccer but I was never sporty. I went to a couple of his soccer games but he soon found that I was more musically inclined than sporty,” says Josh.
Josh had some mates he was quite close with whose fathers had died when they were young, and so were in a similar situation. “I always introduced Mark as my Big Buddy. At first, they related it to the Simpsons programme, where Bart had a big buddy at the time,” he laughs. “But they also knew about the programme.” Hanging out every weekend progressed to going over to Mark’s house, and eventually, Josh began spending part of every Christmas with Mark, doing the morning with his Mum and spending the rest of the day with Mark’s family. “I never thought I would be spending every Christmas with Mark’s family – I’ve also been taken on family holidays. Mark likes to take care of other people before himself.”
“I witnessed Mark’s children’s from babies. Aidan is now 18 doing his own thing, we have a joke around when I go round these days.” Mark bought Josh his first guitar. “I was in a four-piece punk band for few years and Mark was always supportive of that and came to my gigs. ”A punk rock concert is not every Big Buddy’s idea of a good time, but from Mark’s perspective, it was all good. “Josh is a crack-up classic Westie,” says Mark. “So times together were never boring.” “I was very happy to help him develop his musical skills and it was a great thrill to see him play on stage in the band “Come Undone” which I still swear could have been big in their musical genre,” he says.
“Josh was at most of our family functions for many years. As his own family grows, we see each other a little less frequently but catch up three or four times a year. I love seeing him be such a good Dad to his daughter Ruby. Meeting her for the first time was very special.” Says Josh: “When we catch up we go for a beer or a meal and he tells me how proud he is of me, for being a good dad and having a good job. I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to with my life when I left school, and didn’t settle on building until I was 28. Mark was stoked to hear I was doing something that would last my working life.”
Mark says he would like to think that being a regular presence in Josh’s life has given Josh some stability and a feeling of reassurance that someone other than this lovely mum was looking out for him. “I hoped that by trying to be a good man and parent myself then Josh might see what that means, (and how hard you have to work at it!),” he says. “I believe I have gotten far more out of my relationship with Josh than I put in. I think it is an amazing effort by Big Buddy to keep this programme going and it deserves massive government support. For every guy out there who has a bit of time and love to give I cannot recommend being a big Buddy highly enough.
Mark and Josh’s Big Buddy journey may even have new legs. They have both talked about becoming Big Buddies to more young boys, further down the track.“ I was intending to be a Big Buddy again this year, but Covid-related staffing issues for me at work have made that impossible for the moment, but I hope to make it happen again in ’22, ” says Mark.
What a team they would make!
We would love to be able to make another 1000 matches, and there are many ways you can help us get there. If you’re interested in becoming a Big Buddy, you can find more information here. If you’d like to apply for a Big Buddy for your son, you can find more information here. Or, if you would like to make a donation you can do so here.