This is how studying toward a Bachelor of Sports Coaching degree at the University of Canterbury and inspiration from my Mum has helped me want to make a difference for underprivileged Tamariki in Christchurch.
Picture a sunny Saturday afternoon, not a cloud in sight with a still wind. Now imagine attempting to fly a kite on that afternoon, having just as much fun attempting to fly it than actually flying it. All in the space of an hour minimum, once a week, with a kid who cannot get enough of how silly you look running around a field waiting for the kite to take flight. These are actions of ordinary people, doing ordinary things, yet having such a positive impact on our Tamariki.
My name is Callum Crawford, I am in my final year of university studying toward a Bachelor of Sports Coaching. As part of my final year, I am required to pursue an internship with a sporting organisation of my choice. My choice was Special Friends Sports Trust. A sporting trust set up by Sandy van Heyningen with the goal of creating pathways of change for disadvantaged children through sport.
In a snapshot, we are a local charity that helps disadvantaged children 8-12 years in the Canterbury region through our sports mentor programs. Although there is a focus on sports our main work is around their wellbeing, confidence, and whanau support – Helping the child build multiple support communities.
I chose to do my internship with Special Friends because not only did the whole concept behind it speak to me, but I could see by listening to Sandy at the internship showcase that she had such an exciting vision for Tamariki in our community that I couldn’t not be apart of. This has allowed me to both be a mentor for a kid and carry out my internship with Special Friends at the same time.
I am involved in Special Friends from both Sandy’s and my Mum’s inspiration. My Mum was also a mentor back home for a similar buddy program and would hangout weekly with her paired buddy. Seeing the impact Mum has had on her buddy by just hanging out with her weekly really gave me the drive to want to do the same. I was lucky enough to have a childhood with no such barriers, therefore giving a kid who hasn’t had as smooth of a childhood some guidance is the least I can offer.
From being involved since the start of the year, I have seen how important the organisation really is. Adolescents need that positive role model to help mentor them through arguably the most important stages of their lives’ (primary to high school). When some kids are missing those role models, it can be disruptive to their childhood when they are missing out on that stability and positive influence from mentors. The importance of the trust is underlined by Sport Canterbury who noted the primary changes the program has on Tamariki. These include increased confidence and self-esteem, greater connection, and sense of belonging to the community, improved access to physical activity, and respite for Whanau.
The opportunities and experiences I’ve seen these kids get through the program are nothing short of life changing. These include various group sporting activities run by Canterbury sporting organisations and community enterprises. For example, the Canterbury Rams running a session for basketball, skate skool teaching kids the fundamentals of skateboarding, and kayaking at Cambridge Terrace. These are opportunities and experiences that would be hard to come by for such underprivileged Tamariki if it wasn’t for the trust. Simple experiences yet ones that are most valuable for building confidence, trust, and everlasting friendships.
The power of the service has been shown that it just allows children to be children, the variety of opportunities they receive both through a mix of group and one-on-one sessions. It is providing young people with a positive, reliable adult role model in their lives. The biggest realisation for me is that I didn’t expect to make such an impact with the simple things. Activities such as setting up an obstacle course on a court for my buddy to complete, swinging on the swing set with them. It’s just being present which is making the difference, a positive difference as I am seeing progress and more confidence in my buddy every single week. What I have gained from being a mentor is how special the mentor-buddy bond is. I have also been able to take the values and skills learnt through my Sport Coaching degree such as inclusiveness, unselfishness, and various leadership styles.
I am delighted to be a mentor and continually help support my buddy, giving them the time of day that every kid deserves. I am also excited to see the organisation grow by seeing more ordinary people changing lives of our Tamariki through the powerful use of sport. My Sport Coaching degree has given me the tools and connections to be involved in such an influential organisation, one where I am seeing positive change every weekend.
At the end of the day, I am a university student; I wake up and walk to class. I drive around a car my family had for 20+ years and have since added three dents to it. I go to the library just to sit and do nothing for an hour before getting into work. I have two part-time jobs and still rely on Studylink. I am applying for a new flat for next year and will be in the working force. I am ordinary. However, every Saturday afternoon being ordinary is powerful and is creating extraordinary outcomes for our Tamariki.
All of our mentors are ordinary people giving up 1-2 hours a week yet making such a difference. If you would like anymore information regarding the organisation and the difference we are making, we are hosting a team talk event on Tuesday the 2nd of August. Ordinary people make change too.