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MATES

MATES make a difference

Life changing stories from our MATES Mentoring Program.

Stephanie and Maureen

Both mentors and mentees get a lot out of the program.  Being in her 70’s and never having had children of her own, ‘Maureen’ was quite apprehensive at the start to be matched with a teenager!  Maureen often says she feels she gets more out of being with Stephanie than she gives.  Having never been married or had her own children, Maureen always beams when talking about Stephanie and their mentoring relationship. She often talks about how much she has learnt about a younger generation from her relationship with Stephanie.  Maureen is a wonderful positive role model for Stephanie. She is involved in so many committees and volunteers her time to so many causes.

Maureen and Stephanie enjoy volunteering at the ‘Driver Reviver Roadside Coffee stop.’  Here they work together making coffee for travellers passing by.  Stephanie enjoys this immensely and Maureen has happily taken Stephanie’s sister along, for this activity.  Stephanie says “Maureen is like my grandma. She is very caring and she takes what she does seriously, especially volunteering. I look up to her, she’s inspiring and like my best friend.  I could talk to her about anything and I trust her completely.  Maureen has encouraged me to do so many things I would never have done before which I am so grateful for. Without Maureen in my life I would still be really shy, wouldn’t trust many people and still be disorganised!”

Tony and Mandy

‘Mandy’ mentors ‘Tony’ and she has opened up a whole new world for him. Tony has learning difficulties and leads a very sheltered life. When Mandy entered his world everything opened up for Tony.  Mandy created opportunities for Tony to experience activities that he had only ever dreamt of.  He desperately wanted to learn how to fish, so Mandy organised a member of the local angling club to take them both out fishing. They caught four fish and finished the day off with a family BBQ. That day, Tony went fishing for the first time, caught his first fish and had his maiden voyage in a boat.  On one occasion, Mandy had taken Tony to play tennis. She had her husband be the ball boy so they wouldn’t waste their precious hour chasing the ball. While there, Tony noticed the bowling green but he didn’t know what lawn bowls was. Mandy went beyond the call of duty and had the Ladies President of the Bowling Club give them both lessons on the green.

(Names of mentors and mentees in this article have been changed to protect the privacy of participants.)

Expanding Horizons

MATES – Expanding Horizons

Life changing stories from our MATES Mentoring Program.

Shane and Mark

‘Shane’ was a young man who had plenty of challenges and was enrolled in a school re-engagement program.  He was matched with ‘Mark’, a local business owner with a big heart.  Mark quickly became a significant positive influence on Shane and opened up a new world for him.  Mark took him water-skiing, took an interest in Shane’s participation in football and hosted him for a work experience placement.  Shane asked him for an apprenticeship as a motor mechanic.  After speaking with teachers at Shane’s school, Mark offered him an apprenticeship.  Two years on, Shane is thriving in a positive work environment and is well on his way to becoming a fully qualified mechanic.

Jenny and Wendy

‘Jenny’ was another young person with plenty of challenges in her life.  She lived in a very small town with her single mum and seven siblings.  Jenny was paired with ‘Wendy’.  Wendy is a happy person with an endless positive attitude.  She provided Jenny with plenty of new experiences such as visiting arts performances in Horsham and encouraged her to focus on her completing her secondary education.  With Wendy’s support, Jenny was elected school captain and also won the local Lion’s Club Youth of the Year award.  Jenny also competed in the regional finals of the Lions Public Speaking competition and spoke about the benefits of the mentoring program.  Wendy and Jenny’s mum were proud spectators at the finals.

Luke and Greg

‘Greg’ and 16 year old ‘Luke’ are a newly made match, meeting each other in May, although it is almost like Greg and Luke have known each other for years. Luke doesn’t let his ADHD and Asperger’s diagnosis come between their shared love of motors.  Greg and Luke have engaged and developed a strong relationship over the restoration of small engines. Greg is now supporting and coaching Luke towards obtaining his learners permit and has also enrolled to become a L2P mentor in order to take Luke out driving. Since meeting Greg, Luke has been more engaged at school and is setting his mind on a career in the automotive industry. Recently Luke attended a ‘Try-VET’ day participating in a session towards undertaking Certificate 2 in Auto through the VET in schools program. Luke has been so much more focused since being matched with a MATES Mentor and now has the confidence and belief in himself to seek his dream of becoming a mechanic.

(Names of mentors and mentees have been changed to protect the privacy of participants in the mentoring program.)

Win Win Win

Win Win Win!

In the six years that Wimmera Southern Mallee LLEN has been running the Reading Buddies program we have had 200 volunteers from our region support local schools via the program.  The program finds volunteers who listen to children read in a local school for one hour a day, for one or more days a week. The volunteers provide an extra layer of support for our schools and children. But why do people volunteer with the Reading Buddies program?

The program has attracted volunteers from a broad cross-section of our community. We have had:

  • A student teacher, studying an online teaching course, who wanted to get some experience in a school
  • A year 12 student who volunteered during school hours at times when she had no scheduled classes
  • Grandparents of students in the school
  • Grandparents whose grandchildren live interstate, who find that a Reading Buddies fills the gap that they experience by being isolated from their grandchildren
  • Parents of students in the school
  • New arrivals in town who want to make connections with a local community
  • Employees who are able to negotiate flexible work arrangements with their employer to be able to volunteer at a set time during working hours
  • Professionals such as speech pathologists, social workers and occupational therapists who volunteer as part of their employer’s community education program
  • Retirees who love reading and the interaction with young children
  • Secondary students in alternative programs who have been at risk of disengaging from education
  • People who have been in part-time work or unemployed and have wanted to do something useful while they are seeking work
  • Migrants with higher education backgrounds, for whom English is their second language, who have wanted to listen to children read to improve their own language pronunciation.

Volunteering clearly has many benefits for the volunteers. From the list above, we can identify that volunteering:

  • Provides opportunities to gain experience
  • Fills an emotional gap
  • Makes connections with the community
  • Gives satisfaction
  • Provides community education opportunities
  • Is a recreational outlet
  • Gives a sense of purpose
  • Assists with the volunteer’s personal development.

Volunteers usually have a genuine desire to want to make a difference and to contribute to the well-being of our society but an additional key driving factor is what volunteers gain from the experience.

Gaining something from our efforts is a strong motivator to undertake a task. We call it ‘job satisfaction’. We are more inclined to take on a task if we gain satisfaction from it.

Some tasks provide satisfaction from undertaking the task itself, while other tasks are endured for the sake of the end result. One might wash the car, not for the pleasure of the task, but for the satisfaction of having a clean car.

Our Reading Buddies volunteers report that they not only gain satisfaction from the end result, but they actually enjoy the experience of interacting with the children while listening to them read.

This is a win-win-win situation.
The volunteer enjoys the task – win!
The volunteer gains satisfaction from observing the child’s improved reading – win!
The child receives support to develop the vital skill of reading – win!

Bee a mentor

Bee a Mentor!

We know that the MATES Mentoring program has made a huge difference in the lives of many young people in our community, but it is not just the mentees that benefit from the program. We hear many stories from mentors about the benefits of being a part of the program.

Mentors and mentees often report that when they meet for the first time, they are quite nervous. Mentor, Suzanne, said, “I was nervous because my mentee’s mother was there. I was worried about what her mother would think, but her mother was lovely and seemed very appreciative.”

The mentoring relationship between Suzanne and her mentee lasted well beyond the required one-year commitment to the program. Suzanne commenced mentoring when her mentee was in grade 5 and they continued to catch up during the transition to secondary college. Suzanne was able to be a friendly face and help her through the transition period. She was also there to support her mentee as she started her first job. Suzanne said, “At one of our catch-ups my mentee took me out to lunch where she now works casually and was proud to introduce me to her work mates”.

Mentoring can have some surprising benefits for the people who volunteer. Being a volunteer mentor helps you to reach out to a young person and make their world a better place. You expand your understanding of those around you and can provide support and certainty for the young person you work with.

Volunteers help hold a community together.

Helping others also raises your own happiness and this carries over to your self-confidence and sense of accomplishment.

Mentors in the MATES Mentoring Program have made the following comments:
MATES was a great way to volunteer in the community. The experience I got out of it was positive and I would do it again. It’s not very time consuming and it was very flexible.

I have found the MATES program very rewarding and always have a smile when I meet my mentee.

“It’s a great opportunity to give back to the community and to make a small difference.

While I am not sure if I had any real influence on my MATE, I have spoken to his teachers and they assure me that I have.

Our time together is very relaxing for me and I use it as part of my self care plan.

Evidence also shows that volunteering within your community may well benefit your physical and mental health. Make a start, sign up to volunteer as a mentor today. Learn about your community. Become part of your community. Support your community. Our rural towns are great places to live – help make them even better.

Bee a mentor!

Contact us by email 
Phone 03 53810122

Or fill out an online application form now!

Benchmarking and market leader concept. Manager (businessman, coach, leadership) draw graph with three lines, one of them represent the best company in competition.

Impact of Mates Mentoring

MATES has the potential to shift the long term trajectory of these young people’s lives.

The outcomes of the program have proven to be profound for all parities involved. Schools report that for students that have participated, there have been evident behaviour improvements; increased connection with schools; stabilised relationships and enhanced life skills amongst may other benefits.’

These were the findings of in independent review of the Mates Mentoring program conducted in 2016.

MATES has been designed as a model which is easy and effective for all schools to implement and this is reflected by the high rate of program uptake. There is no cost to schools to run the program.

The program connects vulnerable young people (mentees) with positive role models (mentors) and aims to increase the engagement of young people within their school and local community

While is too early to assess the full extent of the impact that the MATES Mentoring program will have on the long term life outcomes of the program participants, a Social Return on Investment (SROI) study of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program which has been running for over 30 years in Australia and which has similarities to MATES Mentoring has shown a number of important life benefits for program participants when followed up at an average of 37 years.

The study found that for every $1 invested in the program, an average of $18 was returned in the social value. For the most disadvantaged young people that participated in the program the social return value was calculated to be as high as $23 for every $1 invested in the program.

If the average social return value for the Big Brothers Big Sisters program was applied to MATES Mentoring Program, it could be estimated that the $89,100 investment made into the program between 2013 and 2015 would likely return a social value to the Wimmera Southern Mallee Community in the vicinity of $1.6 million dollars over the next twenty years.

Over the 2013 and 2015 period it is estimated that a total of 6,667 volunteer hours were invested by [MATES] Mentors in mentoring and participating in training. Assuming that one hour of each volunteer’s time is valued at the minimum casual award wage including 25% casual loading of $21.61, it can be directly calculated that the total value of volunteer time of $157,169 has been invested into the program by the Wimmera Southern Mallee Community.

In an earlier survey carried out directly by Wimmera Southern Mallee LLEN to assess the impact and benefits of the MATES Mentoring Model, the LLEN found that of the students surveyed:

  • 93% agreed or strongly agreed that having a mentor increase their confidence
  • 70% agreed or strongly agreed that having a mentor contributed to their improved behaviour
  • 56% agreed or strongly agreed that because of their mentor they now get along better with their teachers
  • 62% agreed or strongly agreed that because of their mentor, their attitude towards school is better
  • 61% agreed or strongly agreed that because of their mentor they attend school more often

Based on the review and the on-going assessments and surveys, MATES is a model with proven return of investment for social impact.  The Wimmera Southern Mallee Community is supporting and improving outcomes of our young people through mentoring.

To get involved and be part of the team that is having this kind of impact, contact WSMLLEN on (03) 5381 0122, email Mary Bysouth, or visit www.llen.com.au/mates.

2017-09 MATES Facebook Post 21

Volunteering – The Social Impact for Business

Throughout Australia we are seeing a new brand of social responsibility from business that is using employee volunteer programs to ‘invest’ in community and as the key to attract and retain staff, which then feeds into operational efficiency and profitability.

The Wimmera’s business community is pretty savvy; recognising that business is more than just about the bottom line when you work and live in a close community. You see and hear about sponsorship contributions, ‘meals on wheels’ rosters, and a plethora of ‘great ideas’ being supported.

According to Volunteering Australia:

  • 96% of employees said they felt happier as a result of volunteering
  • 94% of companies believed employee volunteering raised staff morale
  • 66% of employees reported a greater commitment to the company as a result their Volunteer Program.

However, businesses are not charities and the general belief is that community-mindedness has to give way to generating profit at some point.

Given the input of volunteering is worth billions to Australia, overcoming the barriers of time and commitment for staff to volunteer is an instant value-add to our community as well as in-house productivity. (Locally, the volunteer hours invested in the MATES Mentoring program from 2010 – 2016 was estimated to be valued at $157,169.)

Locally, MATES Mentoring presents as an ideal Employee Volunteer Program. WSMLLEN has a list of “Community Champions” using the program and releasing staff during work hours to ‘mentor’ young people. Community Champion 2016 Award Winner’s, Hindmarsh Shire Council, provided flexible work arrangements for 7 staff during the year who all mentored young people through the MATES program.

MATES has been designed as a model which is easy and effective to implement and this is reflected by the high rate of program uptake.

 

For further information on using MATES as an Employee Volunteer Program, or to enquire about becoming a mentor, please contact Mary Bysouth, visit www.llen.com.au/mates,
or call (03) 5381 0122.

2017-09 MATES Blog 1 (2)

We all need a mate

To call someone ‘Mate’ is a term of endearment in our Australian language. Our ANZACs and servicemen perhaps understand the term ‘mate’ at a deeper level than most of us will ever know.  We hear stories of ‘mateship’, forged in the horror of war, that endures for life.  A good mate is someone who stands by you through a difficult time – someone who is dependable, someone you can trust and in whom you can confide. 

The MATES mentoring program is appropriately named. For young people in our community today, life is full of pressures and challenges that can be quite overwhelming. The MATES Mentoring Program was developed to support young people through the challenges and to reduce the risk of disengaging from education. 

The program was developed right here in the Wimmera. It began as a pilot program at Dimboola Memoria Secondary College in 2010 and was further developed by the Wimmera Southern Mallee LLEN, and rolled out to other schools across the Wimmera and the rest of the state. 

The program has proven, time and time again, the power of being a ‘mate’ and the difference it can make in the lives of the young people who participate in the program. 

The program is simple. An adult volunteer spends one hour a fortnight for one year, with a student in a local school. That is all it takes to make a huge difference in the lives of young people who need that extra person in their lives. It is almost too simple.  

We know the program works, we know it makes a huge difference in the lives of young people and we have many success stories that support these claims. 

Mentors say: 
“I really feel I am doing something valuable, my time will make an impact”
“When I visit my Mentee, I have five other kids asking to come with me!” 

Mentees say:
“Thank you for making me feel more confident.”
‘My mentor helped me to come out of my shell and now I feel not so scared talking to adults and older people.”
“My mentor has made me feel happier.” 

Schools say:
“The reality is that all students would benefit from a mentor.”
“We are a school of 560 students with at least 20 needing mentors now.”
“The student’s engagement and behavior has improved since being matched with a mentor.” 

Over 400 volunteer mentors have participated in the Mates Mentoring Program since its inception in 2010, which has made a significant impact on 400 young people in our community. 

The reality is that the challenges faced by young people are not going away or becoming easier, so there is an ever-increasing need to find more mentors. 

If you or someone you know could spend one hour a fortnight with a young person in a local school, please contact us at Wimmera Southern Mallee LLEN. 

Contact us by email 
Phone 03 53810122

Or fill out an online application form now!

Pathways

Pathways to Employment

Navigating a pathway from school into employment can take many turns. This was very much the case for Horsham College student, Grace Christian.

Grace studied Cert II VET (Vocational Education and Training) Hairdressing at Federation University one day per week. She also undertook one day per week of on-the-job structured workplace learning (SWL) in a salon. After wondering if hairdressing was the career path she truly wanted, she tried another work placement in Community Services. At the end of year 11 Grace decided hairdressing was what she really wanted and enrolled in Certificate II Salon Assistant for  her second year VET course.

Many young people do not have a set career path and change their mind many times before they eventually settle into a career. Some students aspire to complete year 12 and head to Uni to further study, some take a GAP year and work to save money or travel and some participate in a VCAL (Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning) course during their VCE years and do on the job training and gain industry experience to find their passion. This can then lead to apprenticeships, traineeships or employment.

In year 12 Grace commenced a work placement at Sirs and Hers Hair studio, which has now had a revamp and name change to George and Co. After only two weeks into her placement, an apprenticeship became available and Grace threw her hat in the ring. “I wanted to finish year 12 but I was really enjoying my time in the salon and my dad was really supportive of me leaving school for an apprenticeship”.

Owner of George and Co, Michelle Shanks, offered Grace a two-week full-time trial to ensure leaving school was the right decisions. “I didn’t want to stop Grace from completing year 12, I wanted her to make sure this was what she truly wanted”. “Grace is so mature for her age and she reminds me of myself. She has great work ethic and fits in with the team here at George and Co”. Grace was offered the position and is now employed full time as a first-year apprentice.

Reception duties, smiling and greeting the clients that come into the salon, learning the product range, washing hair, general cleaning duties and helping assist other stylists apply colour are all tasks Grace is learning while on the job. “I have a passion for creative colour, I would like to specialise in colour when I qualify. I really enjoy working with the staff here. They are so friendly and willing to share their knowledge with me”.

Grace will be required to attended trade school as part of her apprenticeship. There is still some discussion as to where that will be but Geelong is looking promising. When asked if there were any things she found challenging, Grace replied, “Being independent and doing it on my own. I’ve never had to stay away from home before, but it will be a great learning curve for me”.

What a great outcome for Grace, exploring opportunities offered through her VCAL Program at Horsham College to help shape a positive career path locally.

For any further information on VET courses offered or Structured Workplace Learning opportunities, contact Wimmera Southern Mallee LLEN on 53810122

1000BBS hero image

1000 Books before school

Reading just ten minutes a day can instil a lifelong love of books and learning in young children. Research shows that children who are read to every day from an early age have extended vocabularies, increased reading readiness and improved cognitive skills when they enter school.

Wimmera Regional Library is participating in 1000 Books Before School, the first statewide program in Australia designed to work with families to promote early literacy skills and combat the scourge of adult illiteracy in our communities.

“The ability to read is an essential life skill for everyone, and a child’s development in the early years is so important. Through this reading initiative, public libraries can empower parents to be effective first teachers, and prepare their children for school,” said Kate Torney, CEO,State Library Victoria.

Wimmera Regional Library is implementing this early literacy initiative to engage parents in reading 1000 books with their children from birth until they begin school.  the campaign calls for families to provide positive and nurturing early learning experiences by sharing stories with their children every day.

“the more a child is read to in their pre-school years, the better prepared they are when they start to learn to read and write. We encourage all families to join the program and begin their reading journey with their children and have lots of fun doing it.”

“Public libraries play a vital role in supporting families with their children’s early literacy. We’re delighted that this program encourages parents across Victoria to read to their kids regularly, and help them to develop a love of language and reading”, said Jenny Puffy, Vice President, Public Libraries Victoria Network.

A child’s brain goes through an amazing period of development in the pre-school years. Studies have shown that by the age of three, the brain has reached 80% of its adult size. Early literacy forms the basis for future learning that can last a lifetime.

Through the 1000 Books Before School program, Wimmera Regional Library will support reader and literacy development by providing families with a framework and incentives to encourage a reading habit, and a love of stories in young children.

1000 Books Before School is designed to encourage reading and contribute to building confidence in children from birth to five years and their parents and caregivers. The program will complement the Wimmera Regional Library’s existing early years reading and literacy programs such as Storytime, Rhyetime and Kindergarten visits.

1000 Books Before School is a joint initiative of StateLibrary Victoria and Public Libraries Victoria Network. contact your local library to register or for more information.

Participating library branches are: Dimboola, Edenhope, Horsham, Kaniva, Nhill, St Arnaud and Stawell.

Article from ‘Off the Shelf’, Wimmera Regional Library Corporation, January 2017

Find out more from State Library Victoria

Travis Perkin, Keenan Marra, Warracknabeal Secondary College's Hope Dempsey who is doing an SBAT at Woodbine, and Veronica Farrugia.

Hope for Success

Warracknabeal year 11 student, Hope Dempsey is celebrating her success which all began with a mock interview at school. During the interview she made a positive first impression on interviewer, Bernie O’Connor.

Woodbine’s CEO Bernie O’Connor commented, “Hope presented well and on time and was clearly taking the interview as a genuine opportunity to learn more of the job seeking process. Towards the end of the interview, my fellow panel member, John Aitken, asked a completely unscripted question of Hope. He asked what three positive learning experiences she could say about her casual work at McDonalds. Immediately, Hope replied along these lines; to dress neatly in uniform to present a positive image, work diligently and never serve food I wouldn’t be prepared to eat myself- There was the next School Based Apprentice.

Woodbine provides a comprehensive range of services and day activities including supported employment, shared supported accommodation, outreach and respite, and recreation and  leisure. The range of day activities includes the popular adventure and discovery program, information technology, communication, commercial catering, plant nursery, craft shop, arts, music, retail clothing shop, opportunity shop and meals on wheels, to nominate a few. All Woodbine services are managed with a genuine philosophy of maximising inclusion and seeking to contribute to the local community.

Bernie explained, “The School Based Apprenticeship is one half of Woodbine’s trainee program. The program involves the nomination by a secondary college of a finishing year 12 student who does not plan to continue on to tertiary studies. This trainee will be supported in real full-time employment for two years whilst they are fully assisted to obtain Certificate IV in Disability. At the same time, comes the nomination of a finishing year 10 student to take up the School Based Apprenticeship. “

School Based Apprenticeships allow young Australians to get a head start with their careers by beginning an apprenticeship while still working towards their senior secondary school certificate. School-based Apprenticeships are a great career option, allowing young Australians to commence training for a vocational qualification and earn a wage while still at school.

Hope said “I love it here. I have two days of on-the-job training and a half a day of working, so it’s 19 hours all-up in a week.” Hope is studying for her Vocational Certificate of Applied Learning at school. “I struggle with classrooms—I always have, but being out in the workplace, I’m learning more than I was at school. It’s a lot more hands-on.” she said.

“I started here in October of 2015 and was thrown in the deep end.” she said. “No two days are the same.” Hope assists clients with daytime activities. “We go out into the community, we go out to Pharmacino and have a coffee and a scone or we’ll go for a walk up the street and get the newspaper. I had my first day in the kitchen last week and today was my first day in music and it was really good.” she said.

Hope has been on steep learning curve. “One of the things I’ve been learning is patience. Some of the clients are a bit slower at completing tasks than others, so you’ve got to be really patient with them and give them time.” she said. Life just keeps getting better for Hope. “A couple of weeks ago I was doing lunchmaking and Bernie, the CEO, called me out and offered me more work!”

Asked if he’d recommend School Based Apprenticeships to other businesses and organisations, Bernie replied, “This program seeks to support a healthy balance of experience and youth at Woodbine. Only a few years ago, there was just one staff member under the age of 30 years. With this measure and its flow-on message, there are now 35 people in the younger age grouping. If you are interested in maintaining a line of youth to match experience and see it as a long term plan, then a is a very workable and extremely rewarding solution. It is not necessarily a solution to address immediate skill deficiencies in your business. For Woodbine, it is a strategy to balance the workforce in a way that is a real support to the community and individual young people whilst enhancing the perception of people with a disability.”