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When Carly* was a teen, she wished that she had someone to talk to. Someone she could trust to be there to look up to, to support her and, most importantly, to listen. It was with this in mind that Carly decided to join our program and eventually become a mentor to Tiffany*.

"Sparkways offered matches that were close to home, catch ups were to last between 1-2 hours a fortnight, which made making time very achievable," says Carly.

Oftentimes it can take a few meetings before a mentor and a young person can feel comfortable around each other, but that wasn't the case for Tiffany and Carly. As soon as they were matched together, the two hit it off right away.

At the time, Tiffany was experiencing episodes of anxiety from issues in her home and school life and, as a result, found it difficult to even catch the bus to go to school. While Carly couldn't solve these problems for her, what she could do was sit with her and listen to what Tiffany had to say.

Although this might not seem like much, many young people report feeling ignored by the adults around them. Often, this can lead to young people becoming isolated because they don't feel like anyone around them is willing to listen to what they have to say

Mentors are different though.

The simple act of consistently being there, of always showing up and showing that you're always willing to listen, can have a huge effect on a young person's sense of confidence and self-worth.

By listening intently to what Tiffany had to say, by being supportive and encouraging, Carly was able to give her the space she needed to develop the understanding and skills she needed to cope better and move forward.

At Sparkways, our goal is to always try to find the best possible mentor for the young person and vice versa. A big part of how we decide that is to make sure that potential matches have as many shared interests and hobbies as possible.

With Tiffany and Carly both being fans of outdoors activities, it didn't take much for them to make hiking and walking a regular activity for them, with Carly even arranging a whole-day kayaking trip!

"It was great having consistency in my life and I’m sure for hers, we met up almost weekly and went on different walking adventures, swimming at the beach, and kayaking," says Carly.

Even when the several-month lockdown happened in Melbourne, Tiffany and Carly both still made the effort to keep in contact and see each other at least once a week.

One activity they did together during the lockdown was house party workouts, after dropping off some weights at Tiffany's front door, the pair would jump onto Zoom and work out together. In the end, nothing, not even a lockdown, could stop the walking adventures though. Even though they weren't able to see each other in-person, the two still kept a regular schedule of taking walks at the same time every week and talking on the phone the entire time.

Another important aspect of a great mentoring relationship is to help support the young person set and reach their own goals.

Before meeting Carly, Tiffany didn't know what she wanted to do after she finished high school. But after learning more about Carly's own degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice and hearing about what she studied at uni, Tiffany began to develop an interest in pursuing psychology.

With the encouragement and support from her mentor, by the time Tiffany graduated from the program, she had a much clearer understanding of what she wanted and how she could achieve it.

Tiffany wasn't the only one who benefited from the mentoring program though. Upon reflection, Carly found that the whole experience to be both emotionally and professionally rewarding for her.

*Names have been changed to protect privacy

Interested in becoming a mentor? Find out everything you need to know here!