Much like an older brother or sister, mentors motivate, guide and support young people as they navigate life’s challenges.
It's a simple idea that's making a difference to the youngsters and the mentors involved. Fundraising Manager Rachel Clarke explains more: ‘We want to help these young people feel a little brighter and more loved than they did yesterday,’ she says. ‘We've been matching young people with mentors since 2006, and with over 100 matches and 10,000 hours of mentoring a year across Auckland, we've seen time and time again the life-changing effects of this connection,’ Rachel adds.
According to Rachel, Upside operates throughout the Auckland region but has a special community hub here in Avondale called Te Whau Hapori. Young people aged between 9 and 13 are referred to Upside by local schools, including Rosebank Road School, Glenavon School, Avondale College, Avondale Intermediate and Avondale Primary. These young people have had adverse childhood experiences and face challenges at a crucial time in their personal development. Mentors provide positive and consistent role models. ‘Mentors are trained volunteers of good character, with no agenda except to connect one-on-one with a young person,’ declares Rachel. She says they are non-judgemental and offer an independent sounding board and a supportive listening ear. Plus, mentors are a whole lot of fun.
Rachel reports that volunteer mentors come from diverse ages, cultures and backgrounds, including CEOs, students and retirees. She says if you've got two hours a week, you can change a young person's life over 12 months. And Upside would love to hear from you to begin your mentoring journey.
Volunteering as a mentor is incredibly rewarding. Many relationships continue long after the year commitment is up as life-long friendships are forged. And the positive impact extends to the young person’s wider whānau. Jenna, a mum to an Upside participant, comments: ‘The mentor has been amazingly supportive of my daughter. She encourages her interest in art, and she’s taken her to see anime movies, which my daughter really likes.’ According to this mum, the experience with Upside has been life-changing for the whole family.
Upside Youth Mentoring as a charity relies on funders' generosity and receives no government funding. However, Rachel says that help with operational costs is always hard to come by. Much-needed assistance of $5,000 from the Your West Support Fund has contributed towards the salary of the Mentoring Coordinator at Avondale’s Te Whau Hapori. ‘Thanks to the Your West Support Fund, we can continue offering our mentoring programme right here in the community. It’s amazing to have locals supporting locals. Together, we’re all making a lasting impact!’ Rachel concludes.