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Newtown mentors get adults into kids’ lives

Aug 16th, 2011 | By | Category: Front Page Layout, Latest News, News

YOUNG people need at least six adults in their lives other than their parents to become well rounded and resilient adults, research shows.

A Newtown group, Newtown Mentors, is putting that into practice with a programme for eight to 15-year-olds that gives them a chance to benefit from an extra adult in their lives.

“The programme aims to increase numbers [of adults] in children’s lives,” says Gemma Minogue (right), co-ordinator for the programme, which is run through the Newtown Community and Cultural Centre.

Aside from what the research says, mentors are needed because there is segregation between some children and adults, she says.

Another reason is some children are surrounded by other kids for most of their daytime hours.

“For some families in Newtown this [segregation] is due to parents needing to hold down more than one job, leaving even more time for child, youth and adult segregation.”

Sophie Gill (20) mentors a 10-year-old girl and says she volunteers with the programme because it is a good way to get involved in the local community.

She had a mentor when she was younger and it was good to know an extra adult: “I think everyone should have a mentor.”

Ms Minogue says once the programme – in its pilot year – becomes better known, she is confident there will be a demand for more mentors.

They choose people are aged 16 or older from the Newtown area, and they are matched with a child for one-on-one time a couple of hours each fortnight.

Potential mentors have to pass a police check and attend an initial training programme that will give advice on their role, the right attitudes to have, safety and common sense, and tips for activities, she says. 

Most importantly, mentors need to be committed to at least six months.

Co-founder of Foundation for Youth Development Jo-anne Wilkinson says on website Youth Mentoring that it is more harmful for a young person to have a mentor and lose them, than it is for them to not have a mentor in the first place.

Ms Minogue says gender matches are usually made and common interests such as cooking are considered.

Safety is very important and mentors are asked to do mentoring in public places as much as possible: “They can do various activities together, from outdoor games to helping with homework.”

Parents are very supportive of the idea and a close relationship can be built between parents and mentors.

She says there are no criteria for children to meet to be selected. Some are referred by their health clinic, school or family.

“We want this to be inclusive. As long as a kid wants a mentor we will try make that happen.”

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is a Whitireia journalism student. Holds Bachelor of Communications, major in Journalism Studies, composite minor in Media Studies and Expressive Arts.
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