Queenstown youngster Hunter Wilson loves planes.
The eight-year-old visits Queenstown Airport every week with Andy and Ange Murray, as part of Presbyterian Support’s buddy programme.
Hunter, perched in the cafe with a hot chocolate and packet of chips, is able to reel off departure times, knows the models of Air New Zealand’s jets and anticipates the “final call” for passengers about to board.
His smile is contagious. The youngster’s been part of the buddy scheme for more than four years.
The initiative, part of Presbyterian Support Southland, pairs up kids in need of extra adult support with local volunteers.
The Murrays say it’s hugely rewarding.
Andy says: “As corny as it may sound, if we can put a smile on a wee boy’s face and at the same time give his dad a couple of hours to himself then it’s a win-win.”
Ange says signing up was a no-brainer. Some families need support for a variety of reasons.
“I love seeing kids having fun and I thought even better to have fun with them. The biggest factor
was commitment and once we’d worked that out, we had no second thoughts.”
What does Hunter get out of it? He loves his weekly airport trip and trying out new things, like baking or beating the pair at a board game.
Hunter’s dad Jeremy reckons it’s boosted the boy’s social skills and confidence.
He’s even a bit of a celeb at Queenstown Airport. Comms boss Jen Andrews says the whole team’s very fond of him.
“His level of knowledge about planes and airport operations is astonishing so I wouldn’t be surprised if he chooses a career in aviation.”
Queenstown buddy programme coordinator Nanette Benington says the benefits for kiddies include friendship, the ability to trust other adults, learning new skills and having a life mentor. It’s always looking for volunteers - she urges anyone with a few spare hours to get in touch.