mentoring Quarterly Spring 2015
Recently we reviewed our volunteer training and decided that we
needed to strengthen the message of the impact of mentoring,
specifically in addressing the effects of childhood trauma.
Although there are many significant and obvious outcomes, like
building social connections, enjoying a range of new recreational
experiences, and building a young person’s self-esteem and
resilience, one of the more unrealised aspects of mentoring is to
reverse the impact of poor brain development.
There is considerable early childhood research that endorses the
idea that adverse childhood experiences – such as household
dysfunction, exposure to family violence, substance abuse, mental
illness, and forms of abuse – have a negative impact on a child’s
Early childhood trauma effects brain development, educational
performance, the ability to develop good social connections and
friendships, and impacts behaviour and emotional regulation. Early
childhood trauma can have long-term health and well-being
consequences contributing to ongoing disease, disability and social
Many of you may know about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (also in
our training module) which suggests that if a person’s most basic
needs are not met they cannot develop as a person. These basic
needs include the physiological (air, food, shelter), feeling safe, a
sense of love and belonging, and good self-esteem. If a young
person struggles to have these basic needs met they may live in
‘survival mode’, which could result in decreased brain development,
attachment problems, lack of empathy, demonstrations of
aggressive and impulsive behaviour. Thus, living in a constant state
of stress, anxiety and instability will inhibit their ability to reach
THE IMPACT OF MENTORING
Risk factors that may contribute to a developmental delay
in a young person include:
• Child abuse/trauma, particularly before age 3;
• Parental substance abuse, or mental illness
• Generational poverty
• Home insecurity/ transiency
• Low educational attainment of parents
• Family violence
• Involvement with Child Protection or the welfare system
Developmental delays can be exacerbated in a young person’s life
if they fall behind their peers at school, or have difficulty making
social connections, or if they have limited recreational
Here’s a little technical bit. There are parts of the brain that will
actually have ‘blunted’ activity when faced with ongoing trauma,
anxiety and stress. For example, in a child this means the
cerebellum, which is responsible for mental health, language,
thinking, and emotional regulation, will not grow and develop like
that of a young person coming from a stable and loving home
We know that every child grows at his or her own pace but achieve
developmental milestones within a similar general timeline.
We also know that the majority of brain development occurs during
a child’s early years, and also continues through adolescence and
young adult hood – full brain development and maturation occurs
by about 25.
So there is time for intervention, however the earlier a young
person receives the support he or she needs, the better off they
Many researchers agree that children and young people need
positive relationships, rich learning opportunities and safe
environments to support heathy brain development. One of the
most important protective factors in a child’s development is the
presence and availability of adults who can offer help and care;
having a secure relationship with at least one significant person if
Considering the elements of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, and the
impact of trauma on a young person’s brain development, we can
recognise that the brains develops in response to experiences with
family and the wider community, and the quality of those
experiences affects a child’s future learning, behaviour, and health.
Our objective is to connect young people with screened and
trained adult mentors for a 12 month minimum supported
friendship that will provide a vulnerable young person with a
“Shifting the balance from vulnerability to resilience may happen
as a result of one person or one opportunity…individuals who have
succeeded in spite of adverse environmental conditions… have
often done so because of the presence of support in the form of
one family member, one teacher, one school, one community
person that encouraged their success and welcomed their
(Fostering Resiliency in Kids: Protective Factors in the Family,
School and Community, 1991).
So, as mentors you play the role of that positive and
stable relationship in a vulnerable young person’s life.
Never underestimate the value of developing a sense of safety,
building a young person’s self-esteem, enabling pro-social
activities, and engaging them in new experiences.
THE IMPACT OF MENTORING
On Sunday the 25th of October, the TRY Mentoring team held
a graduation ceremony for some of their matches at the Box Hill Gardens.
Six matches had reached the twelve month mark and developed a
self-sufficient, genuine friendship that didn’t need the guidance of their
coordinator any longer. Current TRY Mentoring matches were invited
to celebrate and play some fun games – including an egg and spoon race!
- and have some lunch. Thanks to one of our matches for baking honey
joys for everybody, and one of the graduating matches for setting up their
own flying fox! The matches loved having a go and flying between the
trees at the park. Thanks to all of those who came along to celebrate these
wonderful friendships, and we wish our graduating matches all the best
as they continue to see each other and develop a lasting relationship!
Interested in volunteering
with TRY Mentoring?
It’s really easy – if you can be a friend, you can be a mentor.
To learn some more about what you can do to get involved with TRY
Mentoring, come along to our next information session, or check out
www.dosomethingreal.org.au for more information.
Wednesday 3rd February 2016 @ 6.00pm – 7.00pm
TRY Australia Corporate Office
Building 2, 1st Floor
88 Ricketts Road
Mount Waverley 3149
CATCH UP IDEAS
If you’re feeling stuck in a rut
with your match activities, or just
want to mix things up a bit, check
out our 9 Best Novel Catch-Up
Ideas for something different!
1. Make your own herb garden
Take a trip to Bunnings to get the materials
(of course, don’t forget to get a sausage) and build
your own personal herb garden in the backyard!
It’s a great way to help your mentee learn about
responsibility and once the herbs have grown,
you can look up some recipes to use them in!
3. Go on a bike ride through space!
You can follow the sun to the outer planets on a
5.9km bike/walking track between St Kilda and Port
Melbourne – look up The Melbourne Solar System
Self-Guided Trail for more details. Our tip – go at
2. Learn about a new topic together
If you’re not feeling up for physical activity,
then get comfy on the couch and discuss philosophy!
You could learn about physics or philosophy together
and get into some really interesting conversations
as a result – this one is best for an older young person!
There are plenty of youth-friendly resources available
online for harder topics.
4. Be a tourist for a day
The City Circle tram in the CBD is often overlooked,
but it is a fantastic no-cost way to see the city! Jump
on with your mentee and pretend to be tourists for a
day. You could talk about what you would go see first
if you were visiting Melbourne and take some cheesy
tourist snaps together.
5. Shop for bric-a-brac
The Camberwell Sunday Market runs every Sunday
morning – take ten bucks each and see who can find
the most unusual memento from one of the many
stalls! There are also street performers and musicians
to listen to, and plenty of hot jam donuts to scoff down.
7. DIY Skincare
Last year for Christmas, one of our matches made
their own body scrub out of coconut oil, sugar and
lavender oil, bottled it and gave it to their family!
Find some recipes online and make your own
(avoid any with lemon juice or salt, though!)
6. Go on a digital treasure hunt
From the Geocaching Australia website: “Geocaching
is a treasure hunt with something for everyone.
Using map coordinates and a GPS enabled device,
you can find a geocache near your home, in the city,
in the bush or in Antarctica…You can drive up to your
geocache and spot it from the car, or you can choose
to hike for miles up and down mountains in the
snow in search of that elusive container.” Go to
www.geocaching.com.au to see how to get started!
8. Be models for a day
First, bring a bunch of you and your mentees clothes
together to help each other figure out some nice outfits.
Next comes the fun part – model them, and take some
photos! You could both even hold onto them for future
reference about potential outfits.
9. Make a jar of happiness
All you need for this are some jars, paper and pens.
Spend the day with your mentee thinking about
somebody you both care about and would like to
be there for. Then, cut out some small pieces of paper
and write down happy or inspiring messages on them!
Once you have enough, put them in the jar and give it
to a friend or family member to use when they’re in
need of a pick me up!
Chris has been a volunteer mentor with TRY for over a year; in that time, he has
been matched to James*, an eleven year old boy who was in need of a positive
male role model in his life. In the lead up to their graduation from the program,
we sat down with Chris to chat about his experience as a volunteer mentor.
Why did you decide to become a volunteer mentor?
Initially, I looked into TRY because I thought it would be beneficial for me to getinto
my Masters program, experience-wise. But as I started going through the process of
screening and catching up with James, I was like, “wow, this is actually a lot of fun!”
And it just went from there?
Yeah, I never would have thought from where I was with my initial motivations
for the program, that I would be a year on and that it would have been so amazing.
What expectations did you have prior to being matched, and how have these been
met or not?
I was pretty anxious about it. More that I didn’t know how he would react to me,
that he may not like me. I thought that because I was a stranger coming into his life,
he may not feel comfortable with that. I was also worried that after a few weeks I
would get a call saying “thanks, but they don’t really like you, so we’re going to have
to end it”. It was a bit nerve-wracking, and I also wanted to give
a good impression. I just don’t worry about that anymore – every time we catch-up
it’s just like hanging out with a mate. I don’t have to think as much when we
THE IMPACT MENTOR OF MENTORING PROFILE
Do you remember when you started feeling that way, when it started feeling
A month or two in it became more casual. I guess initially he was a lot more
reserved – but now it’s just open conversation, not necessarily about anything
that might be deep and meaningful -sometimes it can be– but it’s mostly free
conversation about whatever.
How did you find the process of applying and being screened?
Initially I would have said it was long, but it’s necessary. All of the stuff TRY covers
is very, very important – you want to be matched to somebody who is similar to
you, and who you’re going to be able to bring the best out of.
What’s been the most challenging part of being a mentor?
Probably when James was having a difficult time emotionally [after the loss
of a few family members] - because I was worried about his wellbeing.
My challenge was that I needed to be more vigilant and be more aware about
the things that he says, or might be doing differently, and I always kept an open
communication with his mum and my coordinator. That wasn’t a particular
challenge for me, but I wanted to make sure that if there was an issue I wanted it
to be well handled.
What’s been the most rewarding?
There’s been so many! For me, I get a lot of happiness out of being there for him
and creating this relationship with him, and him knowing what to expect from a
relationship with stability. It’s been amazing seeing him grow as a young man. It’s
really incredible – he’s become a really emotionally aware, understanding and
compassionate person. Recently, we were talking about Adam Goodes, whose
name came on the radio, and he made the comment that “people don’t think
about the consequences of their actions” which is a very big thing for an 11 year
old to be saying! It amazes me sometimes, his level of understanding of other
*name changed for privacy.
I’ve really enjoyed seeing him achieve in athletics and sport
at school, and recently watching him perform in his school
play was really special for me. He’s growing as a young
man, and that’s been really special to watch. I like to think,
to some extent, that I’ve played a part in that.
Did you ever think that you would have such a bond
with this young person?
No! From the start, I had absolutely no idea. In a way,
I went in with selfish motivations – thinking more about my
course – but now I think about the benefit for me, which is
seeing the benefits that he’s getting. I want to see him
succeed, be happy and enjoy his life, and that’s what makes
it so special for me. Above all, I’ve been able to develop a
friendship with him. It’s not something that will stop – it
will continue on. I would never have thought I would be
able to have such a genuine friendship with him.
What’s the best catch-up that you’ve had?
The play was really awesome for me. That was one of the
most special moments I’ve had with him – having him wave
at me from the stage when he saw me in the audience, was
just amazing. Taking him to his first footy game was really
What would you say to someone who wants to get involved
in mentoring, but is hesitant to jump in?
Based on my experience of it, showing a young person that
you’re interested in them, that you want to know about
them and want to spend time with them – can make the
world of a difference to them. I think that’s one of the most
incredible things. Him just looking forward to having that
catch-up every week is what motivates me.
THE IMPACT MENTOR OF MENTORING PROFILE
In October we ‘raised the roof’ at the Arts Centre
recognising the wonderful work our volunteers do:
not just in mentoring but across our whole organisation.
As you all know, our volunteers tutor, teach, mentor, coach and
support our mentees with everything from being there through
a personal crisis to helping them learning how to play soccer or
basketball. Volunteers also support our childcare centres to create
happy, safe spaces for early learning. They help us in the backyard
blitzes that transform playgrounds at our Preschools and Childcare
centres and with raising money at events such as Run Melbourne.
Volunteers also help us in our administration centre at Ricketts
Road, doing everything from graphic design to answering the
telephone. Whatever way they contribute, all of them teach the
rest of us the real meaning of charity.
This year Rebecca Czarnecki and
her team at Calibre Consulting
received the Corporate Partner
nomination for their great
support for TRY at Run
Melbourne. Not only did they run
the hard yards wearing our new
TRY t-shirts but they raised $3705
that will go towards extending
our MiTH programs in
Thnk you Clibre Conultin!
Rebecca has been a highly-valued
and respected volunteer member
of TRY Bellevue Hill Preschool
since 2009. Over the past 6 years
she has consistently proved
herself to be a devoted and loyal
team member generously sharing
her warm companionship and
compassion with every child she
works with. Always happy,
cheerful and smiling, no task
has ever seemed too big for Bec.
The kids love her and she always
responds with the utmost care
and respect. She consistently
shows initiative in the day-to-day
program and makes herself
available to help out at the many
extra activities throughout the
Thnk you Rebecc!
WM Forster Award for 1-2-1 mentoring
Lauren was nominated for this award for several reasons.
Her experience as a TRY mentor and her continued commitment
to the relationship with her mentee is the exact outcome TRY
Mentoring aims for: a sustainable, long term, and protective
relationship for a young person who has little positivity in their life.
Lauren was nominated for this award not only for her commitment
as a TRY mentor, but also for her support of TRY’s programs in other
ways. Lauren has regularly attended our volunteer training on
Saturdays to speak to other volunteer mentors, sharing her
The opportunity at these sessions allow mentors to talk with
someone who has a depth of experience is invaluable. Lauren has
also assisted TRY in the area of volunteer recruitment, in particular
organising an event at her local sporting club in Frankston which
directly led to us matching another valuable mentor with a boy who
had been on our waiting lists for two years.
Thnk you Luren!
Volunteer Team Award
DANDENONG BOYS MiTH
Greg Schnabel, Manoj Ramanathan, and Martin McDaniel were
nominated for their inexhaustible positivity, their compassion
and their commitment.
These three men took on a group of boys who had little
opportunities for extracurricular activities. All of the boys come from
one of Melbourne’s most disadvantaged areas. Some have ADHD
and several have had Child Protection involvement at some stage of
their lives. Prior to joining the Dandenong MiTH group none of them
had never touched a basketball. After an awkward start with poor
attendance, at the nine month assessment at least seven of the nine
were consistently turning up. The creation of a safe, reliable space
where the boys could open up about their problems as well as their
hopes and ambitions has visibly created an immense positive
impact on the lives of these young men and their families.
Previously unreliable parents have turned into diligent transporters
of their sons. There has been a marked increase in school
attendance across the group. A number of them have become
genuinely interested in the sport and have signed up to basketball
teams at school. Every participant identified the interaction with
their mentors as what motivated them to keep coming back.
Thnk you Dndenon MiTH!
On the night we also launched ‘Raise a Roof’: our new TRY Build program in the
south east corridor. The program represents an exciting new development for
TRY. Our goal is to develop a facility that will become a hub, a safe place for
disadvantaged young people to learn, find strong mentors and create a future
for themselves through the dignity of work. It will strengthen our presence in
Metropolitan Melbourne which in turn will build our social impact and our ability
to recruit volunteers into the future.
All in all, it was a fantastic night. The venue was brilliant, the food was excellent
and when it came down to the nitty gritty of the lego competitions it was
surprising how many ultra-competitive individuals came out!