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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.

Literacy Boost

Prize money received by Wimmera Southern Mallee LLEN will go towards two literacy programs delivered across the Wimmera.  The LLEN was awarded the Community Group of the Year in the 2018 Regional Achievement and Community Awards.  This state-wide award came with $2000 prizemoney sponsored by the Bank of Melbourne.

The prize money will be targeted to buy more books and resources for the Let’s Read program and the Read to Me program. The Horsham branch of the Bank of Melbourne is also donating a series of children’s books for use in these valuable programs.  This support from the Bank of Melbourne will support the development and education of our region’s children.

Let’s Read is delivered by a partnership in each of the Hindmarsh, Horsham, West Wimmera and Yarriambiack shires.  The program delivers support, books, read-aloud DVDs and resources to families at four different age points.  Families receive the resources and support for their babies at 4 months, 12 months, 18 months and 3½ years from Maternal and Child Health Nurses during the child’s health check.

Let’s Read was developed by the Centre for Community Child Health at the Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne. The Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and The Smith Family have partnered with Wimmera Southern Mallee LLEN and local partners to deliver the program across the Wimmera.

The money will also be used to establish the Read to Me program across the Wimmera.  Read to Me was developed by Raising Literacy Australia and is currently delivered across South Australia.  Read to Me will provide children in out-of-home care with their own start-up library of 10 picture and board books. Children then receive an additional 3 books every 3 months to add to their collection up until they reach 6 years of age.

Investing in the early years has a profound impact on a child’s future and, through the Read to Me project, Raising Literacy Australia and Wimmera Southern Mallee LLEN strive to use the power of stories and reading to help children in out-of-home care to reach their full potential.

Let’s Read and Read to Me are early years literacy programs aimed at promoting the importance of reading with young children from birth. Sharing stories, rhymes and songs daily to your children, from birth, establishes a strong language and literacy foundation which ensures that children are ready to learn when they start school.  Research has shown that reading regularly to your children increases their IQ.

We are fortunate to receive such strong support from our business community and local community organisations.  Kids who read succeed and the delivery of these important programs only occurs through the generous support we receive from our partners.

VET and SWL

VET and SWL – Hands-on training for our youth that helps keep our talented young people local. 

VET (Vocational Education and Training), provides accredited training in a range of industries including trades, retail, health, hospitality and services.  Schools in our region run a VET component to their curriculum which enables students to gain accredited training in an area of their interest while still at school.  This training is handson and industry specific.  The skills developed in a VET course can assist young people to find employment when they have completed their schooling.   

As the training is primarily hands-on, VET provides students with an alternative way of learning.  This type of learning is suited to many students and is why there is such success in this model, particularly for students who prefer learning in a practical environment. While there is a written component to VET studies, there is a strong emphasis on hands-on learning.  Students who are unsure of their future career can undergo a VET course in an area of interest with the hope that it will assist them to determine a pathway forward for the rest of their schooling.  

VET courses enable students to attain a certificate II or III in a particular field.  If a student goes on to gain an apprenticeship in the area they studied in VET, their VET certificate will, in most cases, contribute as credit towards some units in the apprenticeship training and therefore reduce the length of the apprenticeship.  

Part of the requirement for many of the VET courses is a Structured Workplace Learning, (SWL), placement to complement the course work.  This enables students to gain experience and develop skills in an actual workplace. Businesses and organisations host a young person within their workforce for a specified time. This can be either one day a week for up to 20 weeks or every day for a one-week block. This valuable experience enhances the students learning and provides them with unique reallife experience in the workforce.  In turn, the employer can use the process to seek prospective new apprentices or trainees and have them work in their team to assess if they are a good fit for their business.  In hosting a student, employers support skill development in their industry and assist a young person with their studies.  SWL is a valuable component of the VET training process and is a fantastic way for businesses to keep talented young people local. 

 

 

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.)

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!

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 5381 0122

Or fill out an online application form now!

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 mates co-ordinator, or visit www.llen.com.au/mates.

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 mates co-ordinator, visit www.llen.com.au/mates,
or call (03) 5381 0122.

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!