Rise issue 09 cover

Northland MSD Hero Gail Rodger

Gail ROdger hugging dog

An interview with Kamo Community Link Assistant Service Centre Manager Gail Rodger, who volunteers as a mentor for the Tautoko Teina programme.

Tell me about yourself
I was born in Glasgow, Scotland and came to New Zealand with my parents and two brothers when I was eight. Mum had a brother living in New Zealand and he said it was a beautiful place, so Mum and Dad took a gamble and brought us kids and two suitcases here to start a new life.

I have worked for the Ministry for 11½ years, starting with the employment service in Wairoa. I am currently the assistant service centre manager at the Kamo Community Link. I am engaged to be married next February to a man I have been with for nine years.

What is the Tautoko Teina mentor programme?
Funded by the Ministry of Youth Development, the Tautoko Teina programme translates as 'supporting a younger sibling'. It's all about mentoring children between the ages of eight and 14 who often do not achieve well at school or are involved in bullying.

Tautoko Teina is run through The Pulse youth centre in Raumanga. The programme has had heaps of success in rebuilding young people's self-esteem, motivation and goal setting ability.

Why did you volunteer for the programme?
As a youth case manager I found I had a passion for young people. If a young person came through the doors, I was like 'What are you doing here? we need to find a job for you, not put you on a benefit'.

I wanted to make a difference in someone's life, give them the benefit of what I have learnt, and share my experiences.

What was the first meeting like?
My 'Mentee' is a lovely wee thing. We just connected. She likes fashion, is a bit of a character, and has an opinion - not unlike me, so we get on like a house on fire.

We meet up on a Saturday for a couple of hours. Last week I introduced her to Casper, my old Border Collie. Casper is very clever and my young friend just loved him. He listened to her, played sit, and chased sticks.

We only had an hour but it is about spending quality time doing things that they love.

What was the process like to sign up as a mentor?
I wasn't that keen in the beginning, but by the time I had listened to the presentation and asked a few questions, I was ready to sign up. The process was really smooth and well organised.

Not quick enough for me, however - it takes time to 'match' people properly.

What do you think you will get out of this volunteer relationship?
I am going to be learning all the way through this. It will prepare me for motherhood and help me be more understanding and not judge others.

I am also looking at it in the context of the 'emerging leaders' programme. By contributing towards a young person's life, it enriches mine.

What happens after the 12 months together?
While the relationship is usually for a year, you make a connection with someone, hopefully being a positive influence in their life. You get quite attached, in fact I am attached already and I think she is too. I envisage we will be genuine friends for a long time.