Big Brothers Big Sisters: Ballarat In-School Mentoring
Kayla and Elsa’s story*
“In 2015 Big Brothers Big Sisters Ballarat’s ‘Bigs’ and ‘Littles’ spent time together: geocaching, walking the lake, going to the movies, growing vegetables, having coffee, playing with the dog, hanging out, supermarket shopping, doing craft, visiting the library, rollerblading, and… baking cupcakes, making pizzas, and tenpin bowling!
Kayla* is a primary school-aged young person. She has attended four different schools over the past few years due to her parents’ changes in employment, and then due to a family restructure.
Kayla now lives with her mother and sibling. Her mother recommended her to Big Brothers Big Sisters because she saw that Kayla was finding it increasingly difficult to make and maintain friendships at her new school and that her social isolation and anxiety was impacting on her school attendance and sense of self-worth. Kayla was matched with her ‘Big Sister’, Elsa, in 2015. She and Elsa share interests including walking Elsa’s dog, watching cooking shows and riding bikes. Elsa has introduced Kayla to
Origami and, in return, Kayla has encouraged Elsa to play table tennis with her. Kayla and Elsa meet weekly for around 2 hours. Sometimes they talk a lot; other times they simply focus on an activity. Kayla describes Elsa as being her friend “who’s fun and listens and doesn’t tell me what to do”; Elsa explains that her main priority is for Kayla to feel comfortable spending time with her, to create some enjoyment, and to not probe into Kayla’s life: “I’m here as a positive presence for Kayla. If she opens up to me about something bothering her, I’ll lend her my ear and listen carefully. Otherwise, we just hang out and have fun, and she knows I’m here”. Kayla’s mum, eager but realistic about measuring the outcomes of her daughter’s match with a mentor, has indicated Kayla’s school attendance has improved and that she seems to have developed more resilience and confidence, best evidenced by Kayla’s proactive approach in making new friends.” *not her real name
Big Brothers Big Sisters is a donor and volunteer supported mentoring network and facilitates meaningful, monitored matches between adult volunteers (‘Bigs’) and vulnerable young people (‘Littles’), ages 7 to 17. In 2015 the program is being expanded to the delivery of in-school mentoring in Ballarat.
Like the umbrella project, the In-school mentoring project focuses on vulnerable and at-risk young people in the City of Ballarat who face a range of issues including:
* Living in low-income households and entrenched cycles of unemployment and poverty
* Having parents with psychiatric illness, intellectual disability or an addiction
* Possessing poor socialisation skills, having difficulties making friends and have experienced bullying
* Experiencing learning difficulties at school or displaying behavioural concerns
* Experiencing family breakdown and/or residing in foster care or residential care placements
* Possessing an intellectual disability
Through the creation of mentoring relationships, young people of Ballarat are more likely to stay engaged in school and avoid the pitfalls of dropping out such as unemployment, incarceration, turning to drugs or alcohol and the need for possible treatment programs.
Big Brothers Big Sisters work with local schools to determine the need for mentoring and find mentors.
This organisation has received funding from United Way Ballarat in the following years:
Your donations at work (mid-year report 2015)
“Our contact and connection to schools within the region has benefited one young secondary‐aged female student, referred by her local Secondary College. This student is awaiting a Mentor Match with a volunteer who is currently being screened and is undergoing training. Initially, it was planned that the volunteer (the ‘Big’) who was identified as being a suitable match for the student would visit and mentor the student (her ‘Little’) within the school, once the applicant’s In‐ School training was complete. During the period in which the applicant has been screened and trained, the student has begun a modified timetable to promote her continued attendance at school. To mitigate the risk of the student missing out on a Mentoring ‘Catch Up’ (based on her limited timetable), the student’s prospective mentor is undergoing full BBBS Community Based training and screening (which is different to in‐school training) so that the student and mentor can meet both inside and outside the school environment.”