Mentors making a difference

08 November 2018

Jayson Forrest

Jayson Forrest is the managing editor of Money & Life Magazine.

Wayne Fenton AFP® is drawn to Teen Challenge Tasmania’s mentoring program, which is helping young people break the cycle of abuse and addiction.

Located in Launceston, Teen Challenge Tasmania (TCT) is a not-for-profit organisation that is part of the global, Teen Challenge network. Teen Challenge specialises in residential rehabilitation for young people with addictions and life controlling issues. The Teen Challenge network operates in over 128 countries, with more than 25,000 people graduating from Teen Challenge centres every year.

According to TCT executive director, Tanya Cavanagh, each Teen Challenge centre outside of the USA, is operationally and financially independent, although linked by a common purpose: to ‘put hope within reach of every addict’.

“TCT’s vision is to see a world free from addiction, with future generations being successful and contributing members of society, who steer others away from the same path they took,” Tanya says.

Tanya concedes that TCT is a little different to many Teen Challenges around the world, as it currently does not have a rehabilitation centre. However, she says they are working hard to open, Home of Hope. This is a residential rehabilitation centre, offering support to women with children in addiction, which will be the first of its kind in Tasmania.

“So, whilst we work to open this much needed centre, we continue to work towards our overall vision. As such, we are incredibly passionate about drug abuse prevention and diverting our next generations away from the paths that lead to addiction,” Tanya says.

TCT is doing this through two initiatives:

#NotEvenOnce® Education Projects Empowering future generations against alcohol and substance abuse to protect their future potential; and

Connections Mentoring ProgramEncouraging life ready young people through positive role modelling relationships.

“We have seen amazing impacts and results from both projects that have originated from Tasmania. The value these projects provide to the next generation extend well beyond the shores of Tasmania, in our overall vision of achieving ‘a world free of addiction’,” Tanya says.

Inspirational work

TCT’s work inspired Wayne Fenton AFP®, an adviser from Elders Financial Planning, to endorse the charitable organisation’s Future2 grant application for its Connections Mentoring Program.

“I had a phone call from Tanya requesting assistance with their Future2 grant nomination. Once I became aware of the fantastic work TCT does for our youth, I had no hesitation in nominating this organisation,” Wayne says.

“The Connections Mentoring Program matches up mentors with at risk youth, who then provide these young people with the support and guidance that will ultimately help them make good decisions about their life going forward. The program works with young people who are struggling and helps to get them back on track while they are young. This will hopefully mean they will be able to continue with their education and move on to employment.

“Using volunteer mentors is a real strength of the program. The mentors take an active interest in the mentees and are non-judgemental, so I was delighted to endorse this program for the Future2 grant.”

The Future2 Make the Difference! Grant judges agreed, awarding TCT with a $10,000 grant for its Connections Mentoring Program.

Connections Mentoring Program

According to Tanya, the Connections Mentoring Program is making a significant difference in the lives of many students across Tasmania.

“Students with a dedicated one-on-one mentor show significant improvement in their relationships with their peers, family and friends,” she says. “Students with a mentor have shown a significant change and transformation in their emotional resilience and a better ability to adapt to stressful situations, resulting in improved social and educational outcomes.

“A direct result of this for students means they then have higher levels of engagement with learning, recognise their own responsibilities and develop self-regulation.”

The Future2 grant has enabled TCT to purchase much needed equipment to make life easier for its training team, volunteer mentors and the mentor support team. The grant has enabled TCT to expand its services to identify, reach, train and assist more mentors, enabling the organisation to expand its program into an additional four schools.

“The grant has allowed us to help more young people who are at risk, while also enabling us to provide extra equipment towards activities with the young people, thereby broadening their horizons for their future,” Tanya says.

It’s a view supported by Wayne: “The Future2 grant has assisted in the training of more mentors through the purchase of equipment, such as computers. These mentors are helping Tasmania’s youth gain confidence, improve their behaviour, provide them with guidance in life, and give them self-belief. The feedback from various school principals is testament to the positive differences a mentor makes to these youths.”

Tick of approval

The Connections Mentoring Program is clearly working, with the Assistant Principal at Exeter High School, Paul Stevenson, seeing the positive impact on the lives of at risk young people.

“The mentoring program has shown immense benefits to the students who have been involved in the program. The fact they have a significant adult in their lives who regularly turns up to spend time with them and just ‘be there’ for them, is so important. The students look forward to the sessions each week, as it’s a time where they have the absolute attention of the mentor, who quickly becomes a central figure in their lives,” Paul says.

“The changes in students has been the most positive endorsement possible for the program.  Confidence has grown in the students and the respect they have for their mentors has also seen improvements in the behaviours of students, as they now have another adult in their lives who takes an interest in them and they know that adult will be checking on how their education is going.

“Self-esteem has also been a major area of development, as the students have a mentor who cares enough about them to come into school once per week to support them in whatever way necessary.”

Making a difference

The Future2 grant is helping TCT connect more young people in need with a mentor and through this relationship, build greater resilience within these young Australians.

“The Connections Mentoring Program is a great initiative that is providing essential support to at risk young people in Tasmania,” Wayne says. “What TCT has already achieved working with youth is simply amazing. And the focus on disadvantage communities and young people is a real highlight of this not-for-profit organisation.”