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Adopting change

28 August 2022
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Adopt a Student founder Tania Beckworth with her son Ben McConway at his graduation.

Students away from home can easily become overwhelmed and isolated, but Tania Beckworth’s Christchurch-based charity Adopt a Student is helping change that. Words Hannah Brown

For students away from home, something as simple as having someone to talk to over dinner can be enough to brighten their week, and help calm some of those homesick-heavy emotions.  

Adopt a Student is a young charity helping build these networks in local communities, an idea of Christchurch mum Tania Beckworth. 

The idea came to her in the years after the tragic loss of her 19-year-old daughter in 2018, who passed away from suicide while she was studying at university in Wellington, living in the halls of residence as a first-year student. 

Tania saw the cracks in the support system for youth, and thought about what families, communities and tertiary institutions could do to offer support and start to make some much needed changes.  

Coming out of three years of grief, she found the strength to start her charity, doing everything she could to prevent the loss of other students.  

“There is a lack of support for students living away from home, and while a lot of the tertiary institutes do what they can within their power, there is still a long way to go,” she says. 

She saw the opportunity for the community to embrace and help solve this national issue. 

“At the end of the day our country was built on being part of a village and working together to support each other,” she says. 

There is a lot of work to be done – and Adopt a Student is part of the effort needed to fill that space. 

Some of the struggles she has noticed students facing are the isolation of living away from home, the anxiety that comes with having very little money, and the pressures of balancing part-time work with study and relationships, on top of the pressure to perform academically. 

“There is nowhere near the level of support for students that we need, they are the next generation who are going to lead this country.” 

“We are losing some of our best young people to suicide or they are dropping out of the education system because they can't handle it, and that’s something that we need to fix,” she says. 

Tania thought about what students are missing – and realised there was something she could do. 

The idea was formed in July 2021, and took about six months to form into a charity. This involved putting the board of trustees together, creating an infrastructure around the charity, and implementing safe policies and procedures. 

She talked to people who run similar charities, which helped her put together an organisation that connects young people with families in the community. 

The charity has six founding trustees, and about 150 volunteers throughout the country.  

300 families are ready to adopt students, which works with the charity’s process of setting up students and families into a pair that makes a great fit. 

Successfully setting up the charity has been a huge milestone. Now the group are working closely in the community to raise awareness and funds to keep the work going – and step into the next phase of working with universities nationally.  

The charity also hosts events in the community. Recently they worked with the help of a local golden retriever meet-up group to bring a dozen golden retrievers to students of Arcady Hall just prior to exam week.

Tania’s son Ben McConway has announced he is shaving his head as a fundraiser in memory of his sister, and to help students get support from the charity.

To find out more about Adopt a Student, and how you can support or get involved, click here.

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