The BIGKID Foundation Mentoring Programme pairs young people aged 16-21 with volunteer mentors for up to 12 months. Together, the mentors and mentees develop a plan to help the young person take positive steps towards achieving goals relating to school completion, developing work skills, identifying career paths and transitioning to post-high school graduation, including post-secondary training. The programme focusses on encouraging and cultivating personal development, in terms of key social and life skills.
We believe that our Mentoring Programme has the deepest impact on the young people we work with. Giving young people this one-to-one attention means that they always have someone they can talk to; who can listen to them and support them to unlock their own potential.
Mentoring is at the heart of what BIGKID does. We began as a Mentoring Programme, delivered by our CEO Shaninga when he was head boy at school to younger students. Over the years, we have found a number of things to be key to successful mentoring relationships - the 4 C’s of success - which we have shared below in the hope that it will foster positive mentoring relationships, and more positive outcomes for young people.
As with any friendship, the key to a successful mentor pairing is to build a proper connection between the mentor and mentee. When they get on, understand and respect one another, the change that they can make together is limitless.
To help our mentees and mentors build relationships, we run a ‘speed pairing’ event at the beginning of each cohort of our Mentoring Programme. Both mentors and mentees then express their preferences for a partner, and are matched accordingly. Building good relationships based on trust helps the mentee to feel more comfortable, and encourages them to open up to the mentor about the issues they are facing. Also, finding a mentee and mentor with something in common - no matter how simple or small - helps to break down initial barriers.
Mentors must meet consistently with their mentees - this helps to build trust, and also combats loneliness among both the mentors and mentees. Whether this is every week or every fortnight, consistency helps the mentee to know that there is someone they can always rely on. Sometimes, encouraging a mentee to leave their house and reminding them that there is someone that always cares can make a world of difference.
Communication is always key! This goes hand in hand with consistency - mentors and mentees must be in regular contact to ensure that trust is built up. This also means that the mentors can regularly check on the mentee, supporting them to achieve their goals by being encouraging and enthusiastic - and by holding them accountable!
Proper communication between the two will also help to ensure that both the mentor and mentee are honest with themselves and one another about their development as the programme continues.
BIGKID is a family. We believe that by building a community of mentors and mentees we are able to foster a camaraderie that encourages volunteers and beneficiaries to give this programme their all. Creating a support system also means that mentees and mentors have other people that they can turn to if they need additional support. Sometimes, the mentors need just as much help as the mentees.
We believe that mentoring can have a life-long impact on young people. Jessie, 17, says "with out my mentor I think it would have taken me longer to be able to talk to people and taken me longer to be confident in myself and to stand up and take control. Having a mentor has made me a better person, more open to meeting new people and more confident.”
If you would like to become a volunteer mentor with BIGKID, please email firstname.lastname@example.org