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‘It takes a village’ – volunteer mentor program in South West Victoria supports kids in foster care

Finding the right role model can be tricky for any young person, but it can be even more difficult to find the right person to connect with when you are in foster care.

MacKillop Family Services is therefore piloting a volunteer mentor program in South West Victoria to connect children and young people under the age of 18 with mentors who will engage them through similar hobbies, interests or job skills. This can include taking the child or young person to their local football game or sports training, upskilling job seekers and giving them tips in their industry or including young people in activities shared through a mutual hobby. Proof of how beneficial mentoring can be for everyone involved is Andrew Ferris, Manager of Ferris Auto Repairs, Warrnambool, who has provided mentorship for a 17-year-old whilst he completed his pre-apprenticeship at South West TAFE.

“We heard about a young man in foster care who had a keen interest in cars, but he didn’t have the opportunity to practice his skills,” said Andrew.

“We provided time in the workshop and mentoring support from other mechanics, to support his interest. During his time with us he learnt valuable entry level industry skills and our staff really enjoyed the opportunity to impart their knowledge.

“It was a great experience for everyone involved. This sort of program can only strengthen our community and is a great way to support young people growing up in our region.”

Cameron Burgess, MacKillop’s local Area Manager, believes the program will be tremendously beneficial for young people in the area.

“One of the great strengths of our community is our willingness to rally around those in need, particularly those who have experienced adversity. A little bit of help and encouragement from the broader community can have a tremendous impact on young people in care and help them to achieve their potential.

“Our hope is that through this program we can create more opportunities for people to support our local kids by contributing a few hours of their time each fortnight.”

Mentors will be appropriately matched to children based upon mutual skills or hobbies. Mentors and mentees will meet at least fortnightly in the community, either after school or on a weekend.

If you are interested in providing mentorship to children living in foster care, please contact Volunteer Coordinator Michael Hoffman on 03 5500 2000.