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‘Peachy Princess’ teaches important lessons at Hamilton playcentre

‘Peachy Princess’ teaches important lessons at Hamilton playcentre

The children and parents alike at River Downs Playcentre in Hamilton have immersed themselves in New Zealand's annual awareness event, Buddy Day.

These Hamilton tots have joined children and youth from across Hamilton, Auckland, Tauranga, Ruapehu and Wellington to decorate Buddies in preparation for adults to 'care' for them on Buddy Day (13 November, 2015).

'Buddy Day' revolves around life-size cardboard 'Buddies' that are decorated by children and then adopted by adults, taken into communities and workplaces.

Buddies are used as a tool to start conversations and raise awareness about the role every adult plays in the lives of kids – from preventing child abuse to providing great environments where they can reach their full potential.

"We left the blank Buddy on a table in the art room, along with decorating materials, and let the kids go for it," said River Downs parent and team leader Kate Monahan.

"They came up with the name Peachy Princess for her and decided she was 16, and lived with her grandmother. I was surprised at how engaged the children were with the Buddy.

"They took turns over the term break having Peachy Princess stay at their homes, going on adventures such as a trip to the park, jumping on the trampoline, and biscuit-making.

"They went out of their way to care for her. If she fell over, they picked her up, and they carried her around proudly.

"The Buddy in Schools programme was great for talking to the children about what it takes to be a good friend, or 'buddy', to others, and how we can all look out for each other.

"It tied really well into aspects of our early childhood education curriculum, Te Whariki, including things such as wellbeing, belonging and family and community."

She said as the mother of two pre-schoolers it was upsetting to consider New Zealand's appalling record on child abuse and neglect.

"We, as adults, have to stand up and intervene if a child appears in trouble, or if we suspect abuse or neglect. As a parent and playcentre mum there is a role I can play in my community to raise awareness - that it's up to all of us to care for children - not just our own child, but every child we come into contact with."

Buddy Day is about doing altogether better for kids.

Through the carers on Buddy Day, the Buddies will ask people all day: "What one thing will you do better for kids in your field of view - today, this week or this year?"

The huge negative impact that the mistreatment of children has on the health and wellbeing of the New Zealand population is the main reason principal supporter of Buddy Day, Sovereign, became involved in 2013.

Child Matters chief executive Anthea Simcock tells how in its origins, Buddy Day was created to challenge existing attitudes and behaviours towards the way we value our children, and shift us all towards a society that prioritises the wellbeing of children in everything we do.

"We want to encourage people to do what they can to impact children's lives in positive ways every day – whether it is making a change for one child, or doing something that will make a difference for many.

"Every child deserves a great childhood, and I believe it is everybody's business to do what they can to make this happen.

"We know that child protection initiatives such as training, child protection policies and changes in legislation work towards ensuring children in New Zealand can reach their full potential.

"However, the reality is that we cannot take a nationwide journey to behavioural change without every person – every community – understanding that it's their responsibility to do better for all children."

Participation in Buddy Day is free. Adults can register as Buddy 'carers' and adopt a Buddy on Buddy Day, Friday 13 November at www.buddyday.org.nz

Facebook: www.facebook.com/buddydaynz

Twitter: @buddydaynz

Instagram: #buddydaynz

Caption: Mia Reardon (2) with one of the River Downs Playcentre Buddies.