Hamilton, New Zealand – New Zealand’s first child abuse awareness event, Buddy Day, was successfully held in the Waikato on Friday with the intent that in future it will go nationwide.
Buddy Day saw 180 cardboard cutout children dressed and decorated by local children during the week leading up to the event. Then, on the day, the 180 decorated cut-outs were looked after for the day by community leaders, retailers, business people, politicians and members of the public.
The 180 Buddies represent ten percent of the 1800 substantiated child abuse cases in the Waikato last year.
Buddies were decorated and cared for in Huntly, Ngaruawahia, Hamilton and Cambridge.
Buddy Day is the first ever event of its type in New Zealand, and although it was staged in the Waikato this year, it’s hoped that with necessary funding and support it can become a national event.
Among the sponsors and supporters of the event this year were WEL Energy Trust, Bryant Trust, Lion Foundation, Waikato-Tainui, Te Puni Kokiri, Longveld Engineering, PSP Plastics and Convex Plastics.
Child advocacy organisation, Child Matters, provided leadership, information and advice to support the event.
Buddies were spread throughout the Waikato community on Buddy Day, taken to meetings, out for coffees, out to lunch and also seen in various public spaces and workplaces.
Child Matters CEO, Anthea Simcock, says primarily the day was successful because it started so many conversations about child abuse and what we can do as a community to prevent it.
“We would very much like to see the event build next year and spread to the rest of New Zealand. Even this year it has been gratifying to see the extensive news media coverage of the event and we had Buddies venture out of the region attending business meetings in Auckland with their carergivers. We even had one Buddy make it all the way to Parliament earlier this week.”
Buddy Day finished with the assembly of all Buddies, their carers and members of the public in the centre of Hamilton. The end of the day reflected on the terrible child abuse statistics in New Zealand and galvanised commitment from those gathered to use their personal influence to do whatever they can do help prevent child abuse.
All 180 of the Buddies were stood together in a stunning visual symbol of how the wider Hamilton community committed on Buddy Day to looking after its children.
Mrs Simcock said it was exciting, especially, to see the many children who helped decorate Buddies become involved in the event.
“We had nearly 50 childcare centres, schools and art organisations in the Waikato help us decorate all 180 of our Buddies. It was really sweet to see how attached the children got to their Buddies – many of them wanted to keep them rather than see us adopt them out to the adults on Buddy Day. During the week leading up to Buddy Day, many children took their Buddies to places like Hamilton Zoo and Taekwondo Do classes.
“And, then on Friday, as adults adopted the Buddies for the day, everyone really involved their Buddy in their daily routines. Postings to our Facebook page were fast and furious with people showing us what their Buddies were up to at work and getting out throughout the region.
“This event really was a true community effort and we want to thank everyone who helped make this first Buddy Day such a success, which has far exceeded our expectations” says Mrs Simcock.