Mentoring proven to change trajectory of young people

Adults play a vital role in fostering resilience and healthy child development, with just one caring, safe adult relationship early in life providing any child a much better shot at growing up healthy and happy.

One organisation making a ‘big’ difference in children and young people’s lives is Big Brothers Big Sisters Nelson. In its 19th year, BBBSN has facilitated countless mentoring friendships to children in need of positive, caring adult role models.

There has been no looking back since the first ‘match’ was made in 1998 says programme director Chelsea Routhan, BBBS Nelson.

“Nelson has a strong reputation for volunteering and this is very much evident in the 180 young people currently matched with a mentor.

The small team at BBBSN works in partnership with the Nelson Police and has a strong relationship with the local Nelson community. “Working in partnership with the police and other agencies means the outcomes are better and they can see first-hand the benefits a preventative programme, like ours, has on the community.”

Ms Routhan feels blessed to be in her role, doing something she is passionate about, with a programme that demonstrates tangible benefits. “The smiles on the faces of the children and their mentors make all the hard work worthwhile.”

90% of children and young people involved in the programme come from single parent homes, with the age range for intake being between six and twelve years of age.

Ms Routhan says part of the programme’s success is the focus on not operating at the end of a child’s journey of disadvantage but getting to be there at the beginning to help them reach their potential.

Research backs up the outcomes from programmes like BBBSN, that mentoring changes the trajectory of young lives, with kids involved more likely to do better at school and avoid risky behaviours.

“Our young people come from many types of home and family structure; different social-economic levels, ethnic backgrounds, neighbourhoods and schools which cross all communities. Their backgrounds and personalities are unique, but they all have a need for friendship with a caring adult, she says.

“The relationships formed through BBBS are intended to help inspire the children involved and make them see they have choices. The positive outcomes cause a ripple effect for the whole community.”

Ms Routhan says mentors also come from diverse backgrounds.

“They are regular people, like you and I. They do not necessarily have special degrees or special skills, just a desire to have a positive impact on a young person in need. The main ingredient to a successful matching is the time and effort put in.”

“Once matched, Big Brothers and Big Sisters develop friendships with their Little Brothers and Little Sisters. Whether playing a computer game or simply hanging out you will bring magic into the life of a child. It’s that simple,” she says.

Currently the demand for the programme is high with sixty children on the waiting list, mostly boys. Making the right match is critical to forming lasting relationships. BBBSN conducts an enrolment and interview process for mentors. Children and parents come to BBBSN through school, counselling and other sources. All children and parents choose to be in the programme.

The BBBSN team supports each match, with staff regularly checking in with volunteers, children and parents to monitor progress and provide support where needed. Ms Routhan says regular events provide the opportunity for mentors and their Little Sisters or Little Brothers to meet and swap stories.

Today’s young people face a variety of challenges but it is programmes like BBBS which can help them navigate these challenges and reach their potential.

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