Mandy Zania

Mandy and Zarnia – Their Story

Sam caught up with Mandy and Zarnia to discuss their experience with the MATES Program at Dimboola Memorial Secondary College. See below a video of their story and transcript.

What is the MATES program and what have you got out of it?
M: The MATES mentoring program to me was an opportunity to help a younger person within my community and I was introduced to Zarnia and I feel like her big sister now and hopefully that’s how she feels too.
Z: MATES Mentoring to me is an opportunity I get to communicate with someone in the community and open up to someone else that’s not just family and friends. I get to talk to someone else.
M: and get a different perspective

Why did you sign up?
M: It was introduced to me through a friend of mine, she asked if I would be interested in doing it, I do a lot of other volunteering within the community. When she said it was helping a young person up at the high school I thought I could get into that. I have a lot of compassion and understanding to share and thought this was a good way to do it.

Do you think the program has made an impact? Have you noticed any changes?
Z: It’s impacted me. It’s made high school a lot easier because I can talk to Mandy for help and guidance and made me more sociable and more comfortable around people and more able to be myself.
M: I feel like I’ve given Zarnia the tools to help her cope with a lot more other things now. Rather than hide, she can now confront people and get her point of view across without it being done in a nasty way. She’s a lot more confident than when I first met her. I think it’s done both of us good.

How often to you catch up? What kind of things do you do together?
M: On average, it’s once a fortnight, sometimes weekly depending on special occasions for example: Zarnia’s birthday we caught up twice in that one week for her birthday and then our normal visit. We do cooking, we play games, I take Zarnia out and we go and have a coffee and a cake down at the bakery. We’re planning a trip to Aradale and J-Ward in Ararat because it’s a place Zarnia wants to visit.
Z: It’s on my bucket list. We do a lot of cooking and that’s one of my favourite things, amongst the many others.

Why do you think mentoring is important?
M: I think in this day and age where social media can be so critical, it’s good to have a positive influence coming through to show you that there are nice people out there, they’re not all nasty, horrible people that just want to keep putting you down. There are people that will encourage and help and I think the MATES Mentoring Program shows that not just Zarnia, but people around Zarnia, just how much she’s improved and then might want to get involved in the program themselves.

How would you rate the experience?
Z: 10/10
M: Ditto

What would you say to someone who is thinking of becoming a mentor?
Z: Go for it, it’s an amazing opportunity you can have.

What was it like when you first met?
M: I think Zarnia has grown in her confidence exceptionally, she can talk to me now. Initially, at a few of our first little meetings, I could tell that something had happened and she would say “I don’t want to talk about it” and I would wait five minutes and I would go, “Zarnia, that’s what I’m here for, you have to unload.” So she ended up getting into that habit of “yes, Mandy’s here, I can just tell her everything that’s happened” and knowing that I keep all of that in confidence for her is an added bonus. It helps both of us, it helps her unload and helps me understand what she’s going through.

Would you recommend the program?
M: Most definitely. I’ve recommended the program to people in the community.

 

 

meerkat-buddies

Reading Buddies — It’s simple

How to become a reading buddy in three simple steps. The process is really simple and you will be supported all the way.

Reading Buddies are volunteers who listen to children read, one-on-one on a regular basis at the child’s school. The aim is to foster a love of reading and assist children to develop their reading skills.

Step 1 – Contact us

The first step in volunteering to be a reading buddy is to contact Lorraine at the LLEN office during business hours. The simplest way is to phone 03 5381 0122.
If you can’t phone during business hours, you can lodge an expression of interest online via our website at http://www.llen.com.au/reading-buddies/
Lorraine will respond either by phone or email to arrange a time to catch up in-person (for about half an hour) at the LLEN office.

Step 2 – Meet with us

During this catch-up, you can discuss when, where and why you would like to be a reading buddy and run through some tips for reading with children.
If you don’t already have a Working with Children Check, Lorraine can assist you to apply.

Step 3 – Visit the school

After you meet with Lorraine, she will make arrangements for you to visit the school where you have chosen to volunteer. She will take you to the school or meet you at the school, introduce you to the school staff and run through an orientation session to show you where to go and what to do.
This is where you arrange a time which suits both you and the school for your regular visits.

(Steps 2 and 3 may be able to be completed in one session. This will depend on which school you choose.)

That’s all it takes!

Once you have gone through these three steps, you simply visit the school at your arranged time each week and enjoy the delights of engaging with children as you listen to them read!

spaghetti

Spaghetti, Spaghetti, Spaghetti!

My son was preparing lunch for my grandchildren, while their mother was away for the day. He was catering for an 18-month old, a three-year old and four-year old.  He announced, “What do you want for lunch today?” and then proceeded to list the options which included some left-overs from the day before and some quick-and-easy options. The list was something like, “There is chicken and corn soup, some salad and ham, or you could have a wrap or a peanut butter sandwich or spaghetti on toast and there are bananas, apples and mandarins in the fruit bowl.”

I was satisfied that, in the absence of their health-conscious mother, this was a reasonable menu that provided some healthy eating options from a range of food groups.

The three-year-old and four-year-old were well able to articulate what they wanted and what they didn’t want. The three-year-old clearly stated, “I don’t like chicken and corn soup. I want ham and salad in a wrap,” while the four-year-old chorused, “Spahgetti, Spaghetti, Spaghetti! I want Spaghetti on toast!”

The 18-month old, whose vocabulary consisted of only a few words such as ‘Mum’, ‘Dad’ and ‘no’, was unable to verbalise his menu preference. He had only been walking for about four months, but suddenly and silently disappeared at lightning speed through the kitchen and into the pantry. He emerged within a few seconds carrying a can of spaghetti, making it quite clear what he wanted for lunch. Although he was unable to speak, he had a clear grasp of the conversation and knew exactly what was being discussed – spaghetti was on the menu for lunch and that was what he wanted. He was also well aware that the spaghetti came in cans and where it was stored in the pantry.

This simple little action of a toddler running into the pantry and coming out with a can of spaghetti, demonstrated clearly what Let’s Read program advocates.  Reading (and speaking) to your children from birth is vital for the development of their language. Long before children can speak, they are listening, learning words and developing their vocabulary.  It stands to reason, that the more words they hear, the more words they will learn and understand. There are numerous ways to increase the number of words our babies and toddlers hear. This can be done by constantly talking and describing what you are doing during the day, making a running commentary of the mundane activities of the day, singing songs to your children and reading stories. Exposure to language in the early years is a great investment in a child’s education and increases their readiness for school.

My 18-month old grandson was given his menu preference for lunch that day, and unsurprisingly, because he was able to choose what he wanted, devoured a generous helping of spaghetti while I sat back and contemplated the wonderful capacity of the human brain and the importance of generous helpings of exposure to language to build healthy young minds.