We recently reached out to Neil* and Liam*, two recent graduates of the Sparkways mentoring program for a chat about their experiences with mentoring and how being a part of the program has impacted their life.
Liam had been recommended to the program by his school's wellness coordinator to help with managing past trauma. Feeling that Liam needed a positive male role model in his life, Liam's mother Helen* reached out to us to see if we had a mentor that was right for him.
"To be honest, I wasn’t aware such programs existed until I came across a poster in the local gym," says Neil.
As a driven and enthusiastic person that likes pushing themselves out of their comfort zone, joining the mentoring program looked like the perfect activity for Neil to try something new and give back to the community at the same time.
Our top priority
At Sparkways, the number priority of our mentoring program is always around supporting our young people and our mentors however we can.
We understand that fostering a great mentoring relationship isn't always easy and that it requires a lot of trust, communication and training before a match can even be made.
That's why we make sure to involve our young people and their families in every step of the process so they know exactly what to expect and so we can ensure we're providing our young people with the best possible match.
For our mentors, we go through a careful screening and interview process to ensure that every potential mentor is a right fit for the program and that they're able to provide a safe and respectful environment for their young person.
To help support this, we make sure that every one of our mentors goes through a mandatory training day where they're equipped with the skills and knowledge they need to support a young person in need. Throughout this training, mentors get a chance to share any questions or concerns they may have and for us to get to know our mentors better and how we can best support their mentoring journey as well.
For Neil, this was one of the number one reasons why he would recommend anyone to join our mentoring program.
Something to look forward to every week
After finishing his training, we quickly matched Neil and Liam together and we were very happy to see the two of them hit it off so quickly.
For the next year, Neil and Liam would meet up at least once a week to play footy, go to the cinemas, or just spend some time playing cards together. It was a great relationship, with Neil taking Liam to his very first game of tennis and Liam teaching Neil how to play games on the PlayStation!
More importantly though, it was a chance for Liam to have someone he could look forward to meeting and talk to every week.
Even when the Melbourne lockdown began, Neil still made sure to keep in touch and catch up with Liam once a week, even if it was only online. It should go without saying that having a stable, constant role model can do wonders for a young person's sense of self-esteem and self-confidence. Time and time again, research has shown us that the more regular a mentoring relationship is, the greater the positive outcomes are for the young person.
Among the many games of footy, basketball and tennis, Liam found in Neil someone he could trust to listen and support him whenever he needed it.
Throughout the next 12 months, and with the support from Neil, Liam began opening up more, becoming more confident and sure of himself, more willing to step outside of his comfort zone and try new things.
It was an amazing transformation and one that Neil is very proud to be a part of.
Go for it
We know for a fact how powerful and positive mentoring can be for everyone involved.
Ever since graduating from our program, we are very happy to hear that Neil is doing well and considers mentoring Liam to be one of the most rewarding experiences of his life.
*Names have been changed to protect privacy
Interested in becoming a mentor? Find out everything you need to know here!