Hannah* was a young girl in year six who needed encouragement. Every week of the school year she met for an hour with a Kids Hope Australia mentor, Sandra Savory from Crossroads Uniting Church.
Sandra listened, advised, and helped Hannah prepare for life at high school.
“I bumped into Hannah at the supermarket the next year,” Sandra said.
“She ran up to me with shining eyes and gave me a big hug. She was doing really well and making good friends.
“Hannah is half-way through year eight now, grown up and gorgeous and going beautifully; it’s lovely to see.”
Following a format devised in the US, Kids Hope Australia (KHA) partners churches with local primary schools to find mentors for children.
For 11 years Sandra Savory has been coordinating KHA’s partnership with Crossroads Uniting Church at Werribee Primary School, where she works as an integration aid and helps students with special needs.
At the school Sandra met George* a quiet, almost invisible boy who was not confident interacting with others.
For three years George met with mentor Geoff and they played Uno, kicked a Sherrin around or just quietly chatted.
Sandra was at an annual KHA celebration day when George, as a year six student, stood up, called everyone to attention, asked to speak and “gave a beautiful, heartfelt speech to thank all the mentors”.
“He spoke so well, off his own bat,” Sandra said.
“We all had tears in our eyes as George explained how much KHA meant to him. He mustered the courage to speak, and did it so eloquently.”
George’s speech made a profound impression on Sandra.
“He was an unassuming boy, one you just wouldn’t notice … not naughty, but timid.”
Laura*, a girl in year two, was withdrawn. She wouldn’t talk to adults or meet their eyes. Her mentor, Deb, helped gradually draw Laura out of her shell.
“Laura was often late for school,” Sandra said.
“One day she arrived, saw me, and asked, ‘Has Deb come yet?’ I told her that Deb would be here soon and Laura ran like the wind to get to class in time to be able to welcome her mentor.”
Sandra said it’s great fun being a mentor, if you’re right for the role.
“We ensure that aspiring mentors understand the commitment they are making to develop and honour the trust that a child places in them,” she said.
“Mentoring addresses social skills and kids that need that extra bit of support. We make craft, play basketball, do some cooking, go for a walk or just talk.”
“It’s not what you do, it’s the time you spend talking and listening. Mentoring is giving yourself, and Christians can help their community practically and effectively.”
Tim Smith, a manager at KHA, said that the schools devise the list of children needing mentors.
“They never struggle to find kids for us – they always have more students who could benefit from mentoring than the churches can provide mentors,” Tim said.
“We allocate mentors to kids as appropriately as possible, as mentors become available.
“The majority of children in need of a mentor are boys. We are always looking for male mentors.”
KHA assures schools, teachers and parents that mentors are trained. Mentors are required by the KHA code of conduct, to “respect the secular nature of education [with] strict guidelines about using any religious content or materials used during the mentoring hour. The focus is purely on the social and emotional development of the child through the mentoring relationship.”
School teachers generally make the decisions as to which kids could really use mentoring, and the recommendations are referred to parents for permission.
Mentors are billed as adult friends “who will play games and do activities with them and encourage them in everything they do at school”.
Tim Smith said if you can connect with children and are a good listener who likes to laugh, then you could volunteer to be a mentor for your church.
“You need the ability to give love and hope to kids that may be feeling isolated, or a bit lonely,” he adds.
“It’s pretty unique program, Kids Hope Australia, because we offer an opportunity for churches and schools to partner together in their local communities.
“The one-to-one mentoring relationships are so powerful, which is why KHA has such a good success rate with helping kids.”
* Names of mentored children have been changed to protect and respect their privacy.
There are 25 Uniting Churches in Tasmania and Victoria that participate in Kids Hope. If your church would like more information, please contact Tim Smith,
firstname.lastname@example.org, 0488 991 215.