Youth mentors sought

Community volunteers are being sought to befriend children and youth in out-of-home care. photograph hayley mills

Community volunteers are being sought to befriend children and youth in out-of-home care. photograph hayley mills

Two programs supporting vulnerable young people are calling for volunteers to mentor and befriend youth with similar interests in out-of-home care.

The Whitelion Community Integration Program and the Berry Street/Whitelion Leaving Care Mentoring Program aim to better connect at-risk youth with the broader community and provide them with positive role models.

Community Integration Program leader Sarah Aquilina said her program targeted youth aged 10-18 using interest-based activities to prevent them from offending or re-offending.

"I've got a young boy who goes to the skate park once a fortnight... I've got a young boy in Sale, we're looking at getting him to attend the Boisdale Hill Climb. I've got another boy who we are looking at getting to do army cadets," Ms Aquilina said.

"[The] program uses the volunteer as a conduit to get them re-engaged back into the community. It is about the volunteer using their similar interests to keep the young person out of trouble."

Leaving Care Mentoring program coordinator Stacy Frendo said her program was more focused on the relationship between the mentor and mentee.

"My program aims to work with people aged between 15 to 21 who are leaving or have already left the out-of-home care system, so we match them with a mentor who has similar interests and complementing personalities and they will transition with the young person over teaching them independent living skills," she said.

"When the young person turns 18 a lot of the services connected to them ... tend to drop off. So it allows young people to still have somebody there to support them into becoming adults living on their own.

"We have a volunteer that has been with the program for 10 years and she has been there for the birth of one of her young people's child.

"We look for the lasting relationships rather than the short-term ticking boxes, type thing."

The two programs provide volunteers with accreditation, training and support and volunteers are required to undergo a criminal check, paid for by Whitelion, get a working with children check and apply for the position with two references.

"You are always learning, always experiencing new things," she said.

For more information about two programs or to get involved, call the Morwell Berry Street office on 5134 5971 and ask to speak to the Whitelion representative.

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