Big role mod­els show the way

Benalla Ensign - - Front Page - By Si­mon Rup­pert

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.

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