I have always been fascinated by what some people decide to do with their fame, wealth, influence and power. Sometimes they use it for good, and sometimes for evil. Some people buy lavish homes, cars and even islands, while others throw their all into something more meaningful – think Bill Gates, Graeme Wood (WOTIF), Dick Smith, Angelina Jolie. I think it tells a great deal about a person’s character on how they use their status.
Powderfinger drummer Jon Coghill, is one of those making-a-postive-difference kind of guys. After international success with Powderfinger, he really has the world at his feet and has chosen to make an amazing difference by being a mentor for Yalari an organisation helping educate and empower Indigenous children from regional, rural and remote communities to bring about generational change, read on here…
Tara asked me to write a short piece about mentoring. I thought I could write it from a semi-expert’s point of view, but I’m unable to do that – I’m far from an expert; I’m far from being experienced and I’m far from being qualified (apart from having a blue card allowing me to work with children of course), but I’ve been mentoring for the past year and I’m having some success.
If you’re thinking of mentoring and you’re in the same boat as me – no experience etc. – then don’t stress – you’d be surprised how easy it is if you have the right mentality. Well, easy may not be the right word, but I reckon anyone can do it if they have the right attitude.
I became a mentor somewhat by chance. At the start of 2011, I volunteered to help at an orientation camp for Indigenous high school children on boarding scholarships. After the camp, Yalari, asked me to become a mentor and I’ve been looking after eight boys, grades 8 to 12, since then. I’m sort of like their big brother, providing the guidance that they miss by being so far from home and in a somewhat alien environment.
Here are a few things I’ve learnt:
Consistency is the key. Try to dedicate the same amount of time, at the same time, every week. For example, if you see the kids for two hours a week on Tuesdays, do it at the same time every week. That way the kids have something they can aim for and they know they can unload if they need to, laugh if they need to, cry if they need to.
Things don’t happen overnight. If someone is having problems, it probably won’t be fixed straight away. Some kids from adverse backgrounds need months or years to change their responses; settle their emotions; adjust the way they associate; or alter how close they can be to others. This is where consistency helps – every week things change in increments and you can be there to support them.
Stick to your morals. I believe the best thing I can provide for the kids is a role model, so if you can be yourself, and exhibit good moral judgment, they will have someone to look up to. I reckon this is important because as volunteers we sometimes think we’re there to serve the charity’s recipients – to bend to what they want – it’s easy to lose yourself to what the kids want instead of what they need.
And last but not least – expect something different every week. I’m sure all the parents out there think this all the time.
Don’t be afraid to get involved, just give a charity you like a call and they’ll probably need some help. All you need is a bit of patience and time each week.
But I’m no expert, so you’ll have to find out for yourself.
Here are a couple of organisations to contact:
Or check out the Australia Youth Mentoring Network here. Feel free to add other mentoring organisations to the comments below!