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Meet Roman Travers, Host of our Next Big Buddy Banter

By Avoca Web Design / 25 August, 2020

Three years ago, broadcaster Roman Travers jumped in his landrover for his usual Saturday ritual, which involved cruising around Auckland with his little buddy Aidan next to him, as the seven-year-old chatted away. Roman, a host for MediaWorks station Magic Radio, was used to hearing about the kids at Aidan’s school or the latest cool gadget. But on that day, a year into joining Kiwi mentoring charity Big Buddy, which matches kind-hearted men with boys without dads, Roman was struck by their conversation.

“Aidan looked up at me and asked, ‘How long will you be my Big Buddy?’” Roman recalls. “I told him I wasn’t sure, but as long as he wants. Then he said, ‘Can it be forever?’”
Now, Aidan is ten and the pair still meet for fortnightly catch-ups, spending time at cafes and parks or, as Aidan enjoys most, simply jumping in the car for an on-road adventure. For Roman, who has two adult daughters living away, joining Big Buddy in 2017 to meet someone like Aidan was equally about helping as it was filling his own cup.

He explains, “I’d come back from Melbourne and wanted to do volunteering, but I didn’t want to just hand over money. Although that’s equally important, it wasn’t for me because with one daughter in Australia and another in Wellington, I felt this empty void and wanted to keep doing something.

He heard about Big Buddy and the role it plays in helping to build confidence and resilience for boys needing a positive male rolemodel. “It was perfect because there was also this connection to how I was brought up,” says Masterton-raised Roman. “I was one of seven children and my father left when I was seven, and I used to gravitate to male role-models through things like sport.”

While Roman had a fun childhood with his older brothers and friends, riding bikes and getting old tubes from the service stations to float down rivers, having an absent father left a hole.
“I remember playing at my best friend’s house and his dad coming home from work. I’d watch this mother-father connection that I remembered, but didn’t have anymore.”

When Roman met Aidan for the first time on his mother’s doorstep, he realised they had more in common than growing up without a father. “Aidan is very shy and clearly was not enjoying the prospect of talking to a stranger,” Roman laughs. “I asked what he’d been up to and after some mumbling he said, ‘I had a birthday on Wednesday,’ and I said, ‘Same here!’ Boom, we had something in common straight away and he instantly warmed to me.”

When it came to venturing into the real world together though, there were some bumps that Roman helped iron out. “Aidan was shy to the point of frustration and so I made a point that when we went to a café, I wouldn’t talk for him,” he says. “He had his eyes down when the waiter came up and having to say what he wanted was like someone stuck a toothpick up his nose – he was mortified! But he’s really good now and will walk from the table up to the counter.” Roman even pushed Aidan to try new foods outside his comfort zone, replacing his usual hot chips for scrambled eggs, which are now the budding young storyteller’ favourite.
“Aidan loves telling stories,” Roman enthuses. “For two years I said we should go on the radio for an interview and it was no way! Now he’s done it a couple of times and asks when he can do it again.”

The pair also appeared on TV3’s The Project. “We were walking around a park with the TV crew and I could see Aidan looking at the cameraman’s high-tech gear,” Roman tells. “I asked if he wanted to carry the camera and he looked at me as if it was the biggest treat in the world, so the cameraman helped mount it onto his shoulder and walk with it.”

Later on, Aidan said it was something he might want to do when he is older. “That’s another part, showing him stuff he hasn’t experienced. I told him he can be anything he wants and I took him down to the MediaWorks studio,” Roman says. “He sat where Mike McRoberts does and did this newsreader’s pose where he leant forward and looked into the camera. I said, ‘Bloody hell, you’re a natural!’”

Like the other 800 Big Buddies who have helped to inspire Kiwi boys between the ages seven and 14, Roman hopes more men will get involved.  “I don’t have that God-like complex about doing amazing work that’s going to completely turn Aidan’s life around,” he says. “But I view it as is another piece of the puzzle to help him see that men are OK.”


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Still showing up, spending time and coming back…from a distance!

By Lettie Bright / 5 April, 2020

Staying connected is a topic on everyone’s minds right now. In the Big Buddy village, we’re giving a lot of thought to how Big and Little Buddies continue to make meaningful connections with each other over the next few weeks.

Luckily, our Big Buddies already have a wealth of ideas on how to maintain the ‘we show up, we spend time, we come back’ mantra that they are known and loved for! Here are a few examples.

Kevin on connecting with Jonathan (main picture.)

“During the lock down, I think it’s more important than ever for people to feel connected, even though they may be isolated” says the Wellington Big Buddy.

“We’re lucky that there are so many technologies that can help us stay in contact, so my Little Buddy Jonathan and I used Facetime and had a video ‘get together’ last Sunday.

“It was actually really easy and we had a great time, playing Liars Dice and Battleships (him with a real board and me with a paper copy I printed off the internet).  I miss seeing him in person as we’ve been doing every weekend for the past 5 years, but for now we’ve adapted to this new way of meeting up, so we still get to talk and have some fun together.”

Jason on connecting with Raffael

“Raf and I have been connecting regularly remotely since he moved to Whakatane. But I know he’s worried, like we all are. So I just try reassure him…he asked me last weekend to come down and stay.”

Clearly, Jason can’t pop down country right now, so they’ve found another way to connect that is close to the young artist’s heart.

“Raf is giving us a topic to draw with. We -as in all my bubble – are going to have a crack at drawing too! We will reveal each other’s pictures on Wednesday afternoons…the first one is a horror theme.”

Eugene on connecting with James

James and I have been checking in with each other every couple of days on WhatsApp via message, chat or video call to share how our day was, what we’ve been up to, any news with the family.

“This seems to be working very well so far. James and his mother elected to go into self-isolation early for family reasons, and they predicted we would go into lock down anyway. So we’ve had plenty of practice using WhatsApp.

“I’d also strongly recommend something like Zoom for video calls, which can be a bit more personal than just messaging.”

Little Buddy Jeremiah and Big Buddy Peter are using ‘pure’ audio to connect: “Jeremiah and I are going old school i.e. the telephone. Unfortunately our digital platforms and entertainment channels are different so it’s good old fashion conversation on the phone.”

And Big Buddy Gavin and Little Buddy Jeffrey, typically take a break during holidays so this period is not unusual for them.

“We are a bit slack when it comes to electronic communications! We’ll have minimum contact over this period and then pick back up later on. We’ve always been like this through holiday periods etc. where we just do our own thing and pick up later, where we left off. “

Big Buddy Roman and Little Buddy Aidan are communicating via WhatsApp, which is their usual method, but moving to Zoom soon.

Last but not least, one Big Buddy who shall remain anonymous, pulled up outside his Little Buddy’s house on his birthday, and sung, with banjo and amp, from the back of his ute! Mum said it really made her boy’s day.

Do you have a self isolation buddy story to share? We would love to hear it. Contact [email protected] , ph 021 599 191 or Facebook message @bigbuddynz

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By Avoca Web Design / 11 December, 2020

Big Buddy works on the simple philosophy that boys develop more confidence and resilience when they have a positive male role model to look up to.

WestPac business Awards for Community Service 2020

Welcome to Big Buddy

Big Buddy matches kind-hearted men with boys who do not have a father in their lives, so they can enjoy male friendship, guidance, someone to look up to and maybe even kick a ball round with. Our Big Buddies are thoroughly screened and then matched with a Little Buddy of 7-14 years of age. This commitment makes a huge positive difference…to both lives!

Donate Now

Find a Big Buddy

Are you mothering or caring for a boy between 7 and 14 years of age, whose father is not in his life? There are many reasons that his father may not be around, but Big Buddy may be able to help.

Find a Big Buddy

Become a Big Buddy

If you are a man with a good heart and a couple of hours to spare each week, you could make a huge difference to a boy whose dad is not around. More than 800 men have made a positive difference by being Big Buddy. It’s a rewarding experience for all!

Become a Big Buddy

Support Big Buddy

The positive difference Big Buddy makes is the result of many. Big Buddy is incredibly grateful to the support of our corporate partners, sponsors and regular givers who better boys’ lives each day.

Support Big Buddy

Being a Big Buddy. Being a Little Buddy. It’s the best!

Big Buddy Day Out – Time to hit the surf!

10 February, 2021 To kick off the year with a bang, the first-ever Tauranga Big Buddy Day Out was hosted with 24 Big and Little Buddies in attendance,… Read More

Rev Your Engines – The 2020 Big Buddy Car Rally

25 November, 2020 One of the highlights on the Big Buddy calendar is the annual Car Rally event. This year, as the country went in and out of… Read More

Big Buddy Waikato: Meet Big Buddy Kaleb Whyte

9 November, 2020 When Big Buddy mentoring manager Matt Anderson-Smith searched the charity’s Waikato volunteers to find the perfect match for teen Kei Ellis-Rose, he struck gold.  … Read More

A little about our radio ads inspired by ‘Jimmy’


In summer 2019, with the help of a very kind donor, Big Buddy was able to commission a Mediaworks radio ad set to help more boys without dads. The Mediaworks team were a great help in working with us on a script inspired by an anonymous poem from our archives. The voices are all fresh from the Big Buddy community: Little Buddy Aidan Morrison is Jimmy; his Big Buddy and regular radio-pro Roman Travers does the man’s voice over; and BB Media & Communications Coordinator Sally Webster dusted off her voice for the female part. Listen to the studio recordings below.

Why mentoring matters

48,669 Boys AGED 7-14

living in solo parent families in New Zealand

8,030 Boys HAVE NO

contact at all with their father
(16.5% of all solo parent families)

780 Boys without Dads in their lives

and 4,725 boys living in solo parent families

893 Boys without Dads in their lives

and 5,412 boys living in solo parent families

2,618 Boys without Dads in their lives

and 15,867 boys living in solo parent families


Still time to help a boy without a dad – even while running Vodafone Warriors

By Lettie Bright / 7 May, 2020

To most people, Dave Curran would have his hands pretty full heading the operations and finances for The Vodafone Warriors, and being a husband and a father to three school-age children. But driving along one day mid 2019, he heard an ad on the radio that awoke a long held desire to help people in need. Big Buddy was asking for male volunteers to spend time with boys without dads in their lives; Dave got on the phone straight away.

The advertisment featured one of Big Buddy’s own Little Buddies, Aidan, reciting some lines from a heart-rending poem – Your Son Jim was gifted to the organisation years before, then archived. It also featured the boy’s own Big Buddy Roman, another busy man who nevertheless gives some time each week to a local boy who truly benefits from his time and attention.

Dave recounts what it was about making a hands-on difference to young lives that had such immediate appeal for him.

“I had definitely wanted to do something to help people for a long time. When I was 12 years-old, a close friend of mine was in a car crash. He was 12 too, and I remember very strongly wanting to help as I looked round and saw all these other kids in hospital beds around him.

“But over the years I realised “you can’t just decide that you want to help people in hospital and walk in there and say ‘I’m here to help you’….you’d get some pretty funny looks!”

Furthermore, when you do want to help people, there isn’t necessarily a bright light showing you how, or even where you can do that, says Dave. He does recognise a wealth of other charities and causes that one can help, but Big Buddy seemed to offer helping others with a “personal touch”.

“There are a lot of great charities, but when you look at many, you might only be able to donate – the Red Cross for instance. With Big Buddy, you can get directly involved. Big Buddy makes it easy to help people in that sense.”

Dave’s name is one of almost 900 others on the Big Buddy volunteer register, who’ve stood in as the man to look up to and rely on, when biological fathers of 7-14 year-old boys have been absent. Over 300 men are currently mentoring each weekend for a few hours, in Auckland, Wellington, Hamilton and Tauranga.

Big Buddy CEO Paul Burns says the men who step up are as many and varied as the boys that mums and grans sign up. But the one thing they share are good values and the desire to contribute to a boy’s life in their own way. This is why the screening process is followed with careful profile matching once a Big Buddy is accepted.

Dave is well aware of the importance of helping shape a boy into a man with values and, not surprisingly for someone in the sports industry, he claims that team sport can have a lot to contribute here.

“Team sport is a good thing. It teaches individuals to work together, and working together is a good life skill to have. Rainbow (pictured left) plays rugby, although he did tell me he loves playing soccer and was thinking of playing that this year. He also plays basketball and loves being outside, the outdoors, doing things.

“If you like, Big and Little Buddies are working together on something, for each other. So much of what we do in life is actually about teamwork.”

Their usual plan for their weekend outings might be simple walks in nature and trips to the beach, sometimes with the dog along for the ride.

“But Rainbow has really loved a few things we’ve done, such as going to North Head in Devonport and looking around all the battlements.  One of the next scheduled trips is going over to Rangitoto Island and walking up to the top.”

It’s not all about Dave setting an example for Rainbow; he is actually getting a few lessons from his young charge: “Once, I’d planned to take Rainbow along to the playground, but it turned out he didn’t want to go. He turned to me and said, ‘Dave, the playground is for me. But I would like to do something that you enjoy too. I want to go and do something that’s for both of us’.”

Dave is aware of that sense of responsibility that a Big Buddy can develop towards a Little Buddy and says that he’s thought about it, given he still has three children under 16 at home himself. However, he stands by the ‘village to raise a child’ approach and says he would love to see more men taking part.

“Big Buddy is a really great programme. I’ve told people to find out more, get involved, because it is so worthwhile and rewarding.”

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Key to confidence in extending comfort zones

By Lettie Bright / 14 June, 2018

July 2018 marks the start of our regular Big Buddy Interviews, where we share the valuable experience and insights of mentors from Auckland, Wellington and the Waikato.                   

Auckland’s Roman Travers combines a pharmaceutical industry role and time with his young-adult family with writing, radio and TV media work– no one could accuse him of not having enough to do. And yet the dad to two daughters still puts aside enough time and energy for his Little Buddy, 8-yr-old Aidan. Roman has been spending 2-3 hours a week with him since November 2016.

Earlier that year, Roman had made a conscious decision to engage in some regular volunteer work. Obvious options were organisations like The City Mission and The Salvation Army. But it was only when a friend mentioned Big Buddy that he decided to go ahead.

“It felt like a perfect fit,” says Roman.

Mentoring is a great way for a wide range of men to share their own time and wisdom with boys in need of it, but the call to do so is unique to each Big Buddy. Roman found particular resonance in his own childhood; his mother brought up his four brothers and two sisters single-handedly when his father disappeared.

I’m not there to change Aidan, but I do believe I’m there to encourage him to be forthright.”

Once his mentoring application was approved, Big Buddy’s coordinators matched Roman with Aidan, a boy has clearly benefitted from Roman’s love of the outdoors.

“Although he’s always been keen to get in the water, there are plenty of other activities he used to automatically avoid, that are now part of most weekends” says Roman.

The research and experience-based philosophy at Big Buddy has always been that while mums and other female carers do a courageous job, boys develop more confidence and independence when they have a man to relate to.

“Aidan is a shy boy, but as soon as he gets in the car with me nowadays he doesn’t shut-up” says Roman. “He’ll say, ‘Can I tell you something?’ and then he’s off. I might start to tell him something too but he’ll interject with his own story pretty quickly. It’s great to see him animated like this.”

Roman also says everyday communication is an area where boys need to extend themselves beyond their comfort zones. Many are used to mum doing most of the talking.

“When we’re out for lunch, I get him to tell the staff what he wants in a clear voice, even though it takes him a couple of goes. I also get him to try new food. When we first started eating out, he would look at the menu and say, ‘I don’t like that.’ My response would be that you don’t know until you’ve tried it – now he’s eating dishes that he claimed months ago not to like. I’m not there to change Aidan, but I do believe I’m there to encourage him to be forthright.”

There are also age-enhancing benefits for mentors in the process, says Roman, who feels he is far more in touch with his younger-self these days.

“I think, really, it’s a kind of selfishness. I know this sounds harsh, but we’re all so set in our ways. For me, becoming a Big Buddy was a lesson not to become set in my ways. I don’t want to get old before I’m ready!”

“We had our birthday lunch at Burger Burger in Ponsonby and afterwards, we hung out at Western Park, playing on the old ruins. We invented a simple game of climbing onto the stone, throwing a leaf down onto the grass, then jumping down to land beyond the leaf.

“It was such a simple thing to do but it struck me that adults forget to play. This is what Aidan needed I think. It doesn’t matter whether you’re at the library, the park, the pools, we shouldn’t forget to play.”

When asked what might commonly prevent a man of good character from applying to be a Big Buddy, Roman is blunt.

“I think, really, it’s a kind of selfishness. I know this sounds harsh, but we’re all so set in our ways. For me, becoming a Big Buddy was a lesson not to become set in my ways. I don’t want to get old before I’m ready!”

Roman’s advice to men who are embarking on being a Big Buddy is to keep it simple. They are not there to be an entertainer; they are present in that boy’s life to support him, to walk alongside him in spoken and unspoken ways. This commitment does not go unnoticed by the Little Buddies, who naturally put men they like and trust on a pedestal.

“I recall a very touching moment in the first year Aidan and I were together. He asked me how long I could be his Big Buddy for. I said I didn’t really know, but that I’d be around for the foreseeable future and maybe even years to come.

“He thought about it for a moment and then asked: ‘Can it be forever?’”

Across the country, we have 91 Little Buddies waiting for a mentor, but only one third of that number in mentors to offer them. If Roman’s insights about mentoring resonate with you, please fill out our mentoring enquiry form and one of our coordinators will promptly be in touch.

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