Volunteer mentors are making a difference to the lives of vulnerable young people at schools in Port Hedland.
Under the program delivered by EdConnect Australia in partnership with Roy Hill Community Foundation, volunteers are matched with students in need of support for ongoing mentoring sessions.
EdConnect Pilbara liaison officer Kay Corda says the students, from five local schools, are not necessarily struggling academically, but are need social and emotional support. Finding a genuine connection with a mentor has a big impact on the student’s personal wellbeing and success, in school and life.
It can also be a rewarding learning experience for the mentor.
Kay says volunteers are trained and matched to a student for one-on-one support. They need to devote an hour a week to meeting with them on school grounds during the school term.
“We like our mentors to commit for a year to help build a real and consistent connection,” she said.
Kirsten Thompson was Pilbara mentor of the year 2019 and has mentored at St Cecilia’s Catholic Primary School.
“I mentor because I’ve seen the difference it can make in a child’s life. To watch them grow from anxious, shy children into confident kids, able to tackle situations they once thought they couldn’t is really rewarding,” Kirsten says.
“I would recommend mentoring because it’s rewarding, a lot of fun, and the difference you can make in a child’s life just by turning up each week will amaze you. Being greeted with their huge smile every visit reminds me why I do it.”
Rosemarie Cowley, who is a mentor at Cassia Primary, says: “I am passionate about the future and safety of our youth and believe I have learnt some skills for connection through practical learning, intentional listening and plain patience whilst assisting students who are struggling in their studies or in the classroom.”
Kay Corda, EdConnect Pilbara liaison officer and Kirsten Thompson, Pilbara mentor of the year 2019
EdConnect is supported in the Pilbara by the Roy Hill Community Foundation.
“The Pilbara Mentors Program would not be possible without the Roy Hill Community Foundation,” Kay says.
She says some volunteers are from the local Roy Hill workforce, and many local companies see the benefit of employees volunteering in the program. Mentors come from all sectors of the community and people of all ages.
Kay, who is also EdConnect’s school coordinator at St Cecilia’s, says volunteers have told her over and over how much they love the mentoring experience. “The need for mentors is greater than ever, especially in these uncertain times,” she says. “The reality is, there’s always more students in need than available mentors.”
This situation has been exacerbated this year by the COVID-19 restrictions which have disrupted the program as some volunteers have had to scale back their involvement.
EdConnect has operated in the Pilbara for four years but the program started more than 20 years ago and now has mentoring programs in 260 schools across Australia.