Big role models show the way
When Benalla’s Bek NashWebster decided to become a mentor to 16-year-old Chelsea Wilson she was saddened to find out the Big Brothers Big Sisters program was not operating in this area. So she did two things. Firstly she made an arrangement to be Chelsea’s mentor anyway, and then she made it her goal to bring the program back to not only Wangaratta but also Benalla.
Big Brothers Big Sisters had been running in Wangaratta since 2009, but it closed in 2014 because of a lack of funding.
Now as part of the ‘‘Pick My Project’’ initiative, Bek has put forward the idea of funding the program to return and expand to include Benalla.
‘‘I got involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters after Chelsea and I met each other we really wanted to have a mentor/mentee relationship,’’ Bek said.
‘‘So we asked them if we could do that under their banner, unfortunately we weren’t able to as they weren’t based in Benalla, so we did it by ourselves.
‘‘But what we’ve noticed is just how valuable it is, not just for the little sister but also the big sister.
‘‘So we had a conversation with Big Brothers Big Sisters regarding bringing it to Benalla as we know how valuable these friendships are.
‘‘Initially it was only going to be reintroduced in Wangaratta but I advocated strongly that we get it into Benalla and we’re really glad we can now offer this opportunity to Benalla as well.’’
The program works on the, often too common, scenario whereby some children lack an adult role mode.
Through Big Brothers Big Sisters’ structured mentoring programs, young people have the opportunity to unlock their potential and build a brighter future.
Positively changing the course of a young person’s life can build resilience and a sense of selfworth in young people.
It can help them to stay at school, and improve their relationships with families and their community which in turn can lead to long-term benefits like an increase in school retention, school and community safety, and greater employment.
Chelsea and Bek have now had a strong mentor/mentee relationship for more than a year, and Chelsea said it had changed her life.
‘‘It can really change your life and make you feel more happy and if you need someone it can really help you,’’ Chelsea said.
‘‘Big Brothers Big Sisters will have a big impact on a lot of kids.
‘‘I think a lot of teenagers around here feel lost and aren’t fortunate to have good role models in their lives.
‘‘I was one of them, but that’s all changed thanks to having a mentor.
‘‘I’ve gone out with Bek’s family a lot, we’ve gone away camping and we recently went to see Pink in Melbourne.
‘‘That was amazing, we had VIP tickets.
‘‘We got a pre-party and we got to do heaps of cool stuff before that, we got to get glitter put on our faces and took some cool photos.’’
Chelsea said the experience was one she hoped other teenagers could have.
‘‘I think that some teenagers are really at risk,’’ she said.
‘‘Some turn to suicide. Some can go down the wrong path and it affects them when they’re older.
‘‘So it’s important for so many of them to get someone to be close to. It can help them reach their full potential.
‘‘If they have someone there they can turn to when times are tough, or when they need advice it will make a huge difference.
‘‘Before the mentoring relationship I didn’t really trust anyone.
‘‘I was really lonely and now I don’t feel like that. I feel I can trust people now.
Chelsea’s story shows that the experiences of mentees is invaluable, but the mentors also get a lot from a program like Big Brothers Big Sisters.
‘‘It’s a dual relationship. I get as much as from her as she gets from me,’’ Bek said.
‘‘We get to do really cool things. She comes out and stays at my house. We go out for coffee. We go camping. She really is just a part of my family now.
‘‘But it’s more than just doing funky, fun things like going to see Pink. It’s actually more about the conversations you have.
‘‘I know that sometimes people don’t have anyone they can bounce things off.
‘‘Actually having someone a little bit older to do that with can be really helpful.
‘‘Especially if that person is not connected to their family or school.’’
I think a lot of teenagers around here feel lost and aren’t fortunate to have good role models in their lives. I was one of them, but that’s all changed thanks to having a mentor.
Top effort: ‘‘Tree’’ Wilhelme is presented with an award on behalf of the Farmers Arms Hotel whose fundraising efforts for the Good Friday Appeal were the fifth-most successful among the participating hotel in Victoria.
Strong bond: Bek Nash-Webster and little sister Chelsea Wilson recently attended the Pink concert in Melbourne.