Big Buddy – making positive change in a boy's life

Big Buddy matches can lead to long-standing supportive relationships. The charity has now matched more than 1,000 boys with mentors.

For many reasons, lots of boys don’t have a father in their lives and while mothers do a fantastic job raising boys alone, they frequently tell us that something is missing for their boys.

One of the first Big Buddy pairings, who met 22 years ago, are still in regular contact. In fact, they are family. Josh Goodwin (now 33) met Mark Robson when he was 11. Josh is now a builder, with a three-year-old daughter Ruby of his own, with his partner Chevonne.  Here is their story.

Creating change

“I didn’t know my father, and my mother, Julie, wanted me to have a male role model in my life,” says West Aucklander Josh, who has two older brothers Michael and Paul.

Mark, a vet, came over to Josh’s every weekend and they would go to the beach or a movie – do father/son stuff. “We started being matched for a year, and then we could decide after that if we wanted to carry on,” Josh explains. “Mark was always open – and told me to talk to him if I was ever in trouble, or just curious about anything. I like to think I learned a lot from Mark.

Josh, Mark and Ruby (supplied)

Time together

“We went to Motat and music things, when they were on. Mark coached soccer but I was never sporty. I went to a couple of his soccer games but he soon found that I was more musically inclined,” says Josh.

Hanging out every weekend progressed to going over to Mark’s house, and eventually Josh began spending part of every Christmas with Mark, doing the morning with his mum and spending the rest of the day with Mark’s family. “I never thought I would be spending every Christmas with Mark’s family – I’ve also been taken on family holidays. Mark likes to take care of other people before himself.

“I witnessed Mark’s children’s from babies. The youngest is now 18 and doing his own thing, we joke around when I visit these days.″

Part of the family

Mark bought Josh his first guitar. “I was in a four piece punk band for few years and Mark was always supportive of that, came to my gigs.”

A punk rock concert is not every Big Buddy’s idea of a good time, but from Mark’s perspective, it was all good. “Josh is a crack-up classic Westie,” says Mark, “So our times together were never boring.”

“I was very happy to help him develop his musical skills and it was a great thrill to see him play onstage in the band ‘Come Undone’ which I still maintain could have been big in their musical genre.”

Growing a family of his own

These days, Mark loves seeing Josh be such a good dad to his daughter Ruby. “Josh was at most of our family functions for many years. Now that he is growing his own family we see each other a little less frequently, but catch up three or four times a year. Meeting Ruby for the first time was very special.”

Josh continues, “When we catch up, we go for a beer or a meal and he tells me how proud he is of me – for my parenting and having a great job. I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do with my life when I left school, but I settled on building at 28. Mark was stoked, it was a career that would set me up for my life.”

A feeling of stability

Mark says he would like to think that being a regular presence in Josh’s life has given him some stability and a feeling of reassurance that someone other than his ‘lovely mum’ was looking out for him.

“I hoped that by trying to be a good man and a parent myself, Josh might see what that means – and how hard you have to work at it!

“I believe I have gotten far more out of my relationship with Josh than I put in. It's an amazing effort by Big Buddy to keep this programme going and it deserves massive government support. For every guy out there who has a bit of time and love to give, I cannot recommend being a Big Buddy highly enough.”

Paying it forward

Mark and Josh’s Big Buddy journey may even have new legs. They have both talked about becoming Big Buddies to more young boys, further down the track. “I was intending to be a Big Buddy again this year, but COVID-related staffing issues for me at work have made that impossible for the moment. I hope to make it happen again in 2022,” says Mark. 

What a team they would make!

Want to become a Big Buddy?

Image credit: supplied

The Big Buddy team covers the greater Auckland region, Hamilton, Tauranga and the Wellington region. To sign up or find out more, go to the Big Buddy website or hear more from the Big (and little) Buddies themselves.

Credits: Big Buddy & Health Navigator Editorial Team.