Buddying up for fun

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Big-hearted Queens-town couple Nick and Emma Bennett don’t have kids of their own but they’re making a difference in one child’s life. 

The Bennetts are part of the Wakatipu Buddy Pro-gramme, which pairs up kids in need of extra support with local adults for fun activities and friendship. 

The couple are “big buddies” to eight-year-old Zyiac Goodman – they’ve been spending time with him most days a week after school and on weekends for the past 18 months. 

“He has dinner with us, in the summertime we play soccer, we feed the ducks, do baking, take him bowling – loads of stuff,” Emma says. 

“He’s really well-behaved, he’s a great little guy.” 

Buddy programme organisers are this month on the hunt for more adults keen to volunteer their time to help more kids – and Emma can recommend it. 

“We thought it would be a good way to get involved in the community,” she explains. 

“We don’t have a family of our own yet and we love children, and we thought it sounded like a really good programme. I think seeing the relationship grow between Zyaic and us has probably been the highlight for us.” 

Zyiac’s mum Tina says her son loves spending time with the Bennetts. 

“It’s a really positive thing for Zyiac, he really enjoys it. 

“I’m a single mum and I think he lacks having a male presence in his life because his father lives in Christchurch. 
He really likes spending time with Nick.” 

Buddy programme coordinator Nanette Benington says she’s looking for about 12 adults to join before training begins in September. 

“We have 27 matches at the moment and there’s a waiting list of about six kids – but that’ll grow. 

“It’s great for the kids to have that extra one-on-one contact with their buddies. They really benefit from it.”