26-year-old Christina has packed a lot into her life. A qualified midwife, Christina has also worked on a volunteer project in Indonesia and as a nanny in remote indigenous communities in the Northern Territory.
Shortly after moving to the Barwon South West region to take up a new role in management at an aged care facility, Christina was looking for a way to become more involved in her local community and share her interests in sport, music and camping.
When she found out about MacKillop’s volunteer mentor program, it was the perfect solution. The volunteer mentor program is a pilot 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.
“Young people are the future. I want to be part of making them feel important, and guiding them to be good, involved citizens. When I was growing up, I would have benefited from having a mentor; to have someone spend time with me, even if we didn’t talk much, someone to share experiences and common interests with,” Christina said.
Christina was nervous meeting 14-year old Sophie* for the first time, but she needn’t have worried. They met at Sophie’s foster care home and her carers and case manager were there so that Sophie could feel at ease meeting someone new. They also talked about their interests and Christina was delighted that Sophie wanted to try some new sporting and leisure activities.
“I was surprised at how quickly Sophie did open up. We were able to bond over every activity we tried. We went to a yoga session together and we really enjoyed it – if I fell over or couldn’t do something we would laugh together.
“Water aerobics has become our favourite activity together, but we also like to go to a café together afterwards and just have a chat. We also like to go for walks, Sophie knows the area much better than me and she has shown me lots of shortcuts and pointed out places of interest, it’s great that we can learn from each other,” added Christina.
“I am doing a small thing but I can see the impact it is having on Sophie. I want Sophie to know that I am here for the long haul. Of course, we will have and good days and bad days but it’s important that she can be herself with me and that she can be honest about what she is feeling.
“Most of us take things like having family and friends around to chat to for granted, but some people miss out. Just spending time with a young person and giving them an alternative perspective can make a big difference, being open and listening to them, sharing an experience makes them feel validated.”
Christina and Sophie are looking forward to trying out more new sporting activities together and expanding their love of walking to try hiking for the first time.
*Name changed to protect privacy