By Petrina Wright | Posted: Tuesday March 7, 2023
The experience of being a Little Buddy had such a profound impact on Gemma Wells-Todd's young life that as an adult she was determined to give back.
“I remember how much I always looked forward to being picked up and going to do fun activities. Those few hours a week meant so much as I got to have one-on-one time with someone I could talk to,” she said of being a Little Buddy.
Gemma joined the Invercargill Buddy Programme as a troubled 12-year-old after she started having problems at home and at school.
“The first time I met my Big Buddy I was so excited.
"She wasn’t my mother’s friend or my siblings’ friend, she was just for me. Someone I could confide in and do fun things with.”
The programme matches children between the ages of four and 12 with an adult who can offer them friendship, support, guidance, and encouragement.
Family Works Buddy Programme team leader Helen Goatley said through the Buddy relationship, Little Buddies’ self-esteem and confidence grow and they develop social skills, not to mention it brings them joy and they have loads of fun together.
Gemma and her Big Buddy developed a strong friendship, enjoying a range of activities together from playing down by the river, watching movies and visiting her Big Buddy’s family farm.
As a result of that positive experience, the young Gemma decided that when she was old enough, she would become a Big Buddy and give back to another child.
And she has done just that.
Gemma joined the Buddy programme as a Big Buddy two years ago.
Gemma said she was matched with a 9-year-old girl who was experiencing similar challenges to what she had experienced as a child.
“I know how it feels being in that place. I know how my Little Buddy feels.”
As a result, the pair had formed a strong bond.
"We started out by spending a couple of hours together each week, but two years on, we now often spend the day together, and my Little Buddy even stays the night at my house on occasion," she said.
One thing which had surprised Gemma about becoming a Big Buddy was the positive impact it had had on her own life.
“I thought it would be rewarding for my Little Buddy, but it is just as rewarding for me.
“My Little Buddy has taught me things and really made an impact on my life.
“We have such a strong friendship. I hope she will still be part of my life after the Buddy Programme.”
Gemma recommended the Buddy Programme to others.
“It is so much fun. Not just for your Little Buddy, but for yourself, and you know you are making a difference in their life.”
To find out more about the programme, click here: Buddy Programme.