Ngamatea School's Creators bring their Buddies to life

While many in the Ruapehu are just learning about Buddy Day, Ngamatea School kids have been creating their new friends for over a month.

On 13 November, one hundred life-size cardboard 'children' will be adopted by the community in an effort to help raise awareness, start conversations and drive change about the role every adult plays in improving the life and prospects of all kids – from preventing child abuse to providing great environments to achieve this.

Ngamatea School's relieving principal Moarikura Johnson was quick to see the benefits of the Ngāti Rangi led event that was founded by charity Child Matters in 2011.

"We need to get back to the basics, what's most important gift or taonga you can have?

"It's the people and Buddy Day promotes how important it is to provide a safe caring environment and not just at schools, everywhere.

"Buddy Day is about looking after each other and there's definitely not enough of that going on, it teaches us to be nice to each other in a positive way."

New Zealand has one of the worst child abuse rates in the developed world.

Ngamatea School Buddy Day creators Te Orangitautahi Te Riaki, 8, and his buddy 'Justin', centre, and, back from left, Keyana Tamatea, 8, and 'Aliya', Koopu-te-Roirangi Mareikura-Heta, 8, and 'Casey-rose', Tahatika Te Riaki, 8, and 'Ridgeline Rasta' and Jorje Richards, 9, and 'Jason' introduce their buddies to relieving principal Moarikura Johnson.

On average seven children die each year as a result of abuse and neglect and it is estimated that for every child who is killed due to maltreatment there are approximately 160 hospital admissions and 2,000 accident and emergency room visits.

Rather than continually focus on the negative, Ms Johnson is welcoming a more proactive approach to help drive change.

"We all know what's going on in our communities but Buddy Day is about focusing on creating solutions, changing the way we be.

"Having an awareness of how we need to be is really important.

"If we have an environment that shows support, empathy, compassion and a lot of care, that will filter down.

"It's the ripple effect, it only takes one or two to change the way in which we feel and think and that starts to filter down and drive change."

Engaging with her young charges to celebrate their individual successes rather than constantly scolding is a simple start to providing safe environments for children to flourish.

"We all need to say positive things to each other.

"Kids love to be acknowledged and told when they are doing things well, the more often you concentrate on the positive things you'll get less of the inappropriate behaviour."

Ngamatea School's buddies are just some of the 100 available for adoption at the Ruapehu Buddy Day free event in November.

More information on how to adopt a buddy on 13 November or become a 'creator' can be found online at buddyday.org.nz or by calling the Ngāti Rangi office on 06 385 9500 or 0800 NRANGI.