By Pauline Stewart.
Boys Brigade is celebrating 140 years in New Zealand.
It is a Christian organisation that strives to nurture values in boys through programmes where the boys experience adventure, make things, learn life skills, and have fun.
There is a Boys Brigade in Whitianga, supported by C3 Church in Coghill Street.
And for now there is one girl, called Sophie. This Boys Brigade, for Terms One and Four, meets in Kuaotunu where there are more girls who enjoy the programme and then it is the Girls Brigade. But for Terms Two and Three in Whitianga, it’s just Sophie and she doesn’t mind being the only girl.
What brings out about 25 boys plus one girl together once a week, on a cold winters night for an organisation that has been going 140 years?
“The secret is consistent, caring and trustworthy leadership and loads of good times,” says Fleur Blackie, one of the leaders. Robyn Balfour is the key organiser, with Grant Vaughan, Jessie and Aiden all working with different age groups whilst we were there. Robyn clearly identifies with the need to address a world which does not cater to the needs of boys, where masculinity is not given priority. She adds, “Boys Brigade understands and promotes that boys and young men need movement; they need competition and strong personal relationships which will help develop men who act responsibly, who know how to love and honour, protect and provide for their families, churches and communities.”
We spoke with Fleur who is in the leadership team at Kuaotunu for Term One and Four but was helping out on this particular evening. “I relate it to scouts, as the boys work towards badges which they can achieve in life skills and values. It is a lot of work because you have to source all your resources each week,” says Fleur who has three boys, Kainoa, Kade and Kingsley (pictured here).
The programme flows like this: After the welcome the first half hour they are all together in a group, there’s Ames and lots of physical activity. The older ones look after the younger ones in this time. Then there is Parade time where they split into groups. This is more formal, a roll call, and the boys are checked for their uniform standard in terms of cleanliness and also answer to basic questions in terms of bringing their Bibles and attending church.
There are three age groupings - Anchor 5-7 years, Adventure 8-10 years, Delta Junior 11-13 years and Delta Senior 14-18 years. The two Delta groups are combined in the winter.
After the Parade each group works on an activity. On my visit I enjoyed watching the Anchor group boys being assisted by Aiden to make life size drawings of themselves, marvelling at how big they were. The older boys were planning the programme for their October school holiday camp with Grants help. The Adventure boys were very engaged by a talk and some activities led by Maureen Kerr who came to share her experiences as an overseas missionary. After the activity it is time to focus on badge work. “A badge can take quite a while to achieve – you can’t achieve it in one night or even two, “says Fleur. “There is a biblical focus incorporated when they do their badge work - basic stories and lessons.”
A programme theme can extend over a few weeks of activities.
“We really enjoyed the ocean and fishing theme in Term Four, 2022,” says Robyn. “The boys did activities at their level with the help of parents and adults from the community helping out. The boys went fishing (caught 15 yellow-eyed mullet), learned how to tie sailors’ knots, dragged a bait net, baited hooks, practised knife safety; we even made burley bombs and learned how to operate a drone fishing rod. And of course there was our Sandwarz event which was just amazing.”
We could not do this without the help of our parents or grandparents and adults out there who just want to help. Fr example the Volunteer fire brigade came to hose off our boys after the Sandwarz event.” It’s also a parable message that in the future the boys can take a role in helping their community. Everything is well supervised, yet the boys have opportunity to take a lead and use their initiative. We have our National Foundation Camp at Finlay Park (Lake Karapiro) during the October school holidays, and there is a Whanganui canoeing expedition planned in early December. It’s exciting” concludes Robyn.
People can check out the website:www.bb.org.nz and are welcome to contact Robyn on 020 409 39674 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more information.
Caption: Boys (and one girl!) from the Delta grouping of Boys Brigade.