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Our History - A Strong Foundation

In 1904, while serving as a clerk in New York Children's Court, United States Army Lieutenant Colonel - Ernest Kent Coulter, delivered a revolutionary speech:

"There is only one possible way to serve that youngster [who is in trouble] and that is to have some earnest, true man volunteer to be his big brother, to look after him, help him do right; make the little chap feel that there is at least one human being in this great city who takes a personal interest in him, who cares whether he live or dies. I call for a volunteer."
- Ernest Kent Coulter

Coulter’s inspirational speech was the start of something big and changed the lives of children globally, as the Big Brother movement began.

A Lasting Legacy - Our Partnership with NZ Police

Some conversations really do start something: something that lasts, something big. When New Zealand Police Officer Trevor Gaskell was on secondment in Toronto, he had no idea that a conversation he would have was to be one of those moments - a catalyst for something far greater. Here's his story:

It was the late 60’s and Trevor was working with American Officer Dave Boothby. On this evening, the usual banter and jokes between the two were not forthcoming. Dave was unusually quiet and seemed distracted. In typical style, Trevor asked Dave what was up. Dave explained there had been a house fire at the home of his Little Brother from the Big Brothers Big Sisters programme, and that he was so worried because he’d heard his 'little brother' had been burnt.

This sparked a conversation and Trevor learned a great deal about the Big Brother - Little Brother relationship as well as the programme itself, and was impressed by the impact the programme had had on one of his Police colleagues as well as the potential for influencing young lives.

Trevor moved back to New Zealand and climbed the ranks to become Sergeant. He never forgot that conversation and he held on to a dream that one day he would see Big Brothers Big Sisters established in New Zealand. Everything fell into place and, after nearly three decades since Trevor had originally become so inspired about the programme, a series of events brought it all together.

In 1996, Trevor briefed youth aid officer, Ross Lienert, with the hope that Ross would also catch the vision and see its potential. Not long after, Ross was invited to a meeting called by the Rotary Club of Nelson. Ross, with fresh knowledge about the world’s oldest mentoring programme, was able to share with the Rotary team the BBBS vision Trevor had of bringing the programme to NZ. The idea was met with agreement and quickly gathered momentum.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of New Zealand is one of 15 countries across the world's continents that is an affiliate of BBBS International. In 2020, we were the fourth largest affiliate country, providing over 3,500 young people/taiohi with a trained mentor/tuakana throughout our 12 programme regions/rohe across Aotearoa.


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