With a new decade beginning along with the new year it can be a great time to set some new goals or do something you’ve been wanting to do for years and if that is giving back then I wanted to share with you a foundation I’ve been involved with for a few years now.
I’m a volunteer with Raise Foundation and have been volunteering for 3 years, 2020 being my fourth. RAISE is a wonderful foundation which mentors young teens at their high school through a program called ISMO (In School Mentoring Opportunity). They are established across the majority of Australia and hope to one day have enough volunteers to be in every high school. It has been such a rewarding experience – getting to know these amazing young people who are the next generation.
Me with my mentee last year
So how it works – for two terms during the year (term 2 and 3) for a couple of hours a week, you are paired up with one student who is your mentee for the two terms, spending some time together hanging out, chatting and listening to your mentee.
It is such a rewarding experience getting to know these amazing, genuine people, having a laugh and really getting to know them over the 23 weeks. It’s made me a better listener and less judgemental as well as introducing me to some incredible volunteers and program counsellors, some of whom I have lovely friendships with now.
You don’t need any previous experiences, just a willingness to listen and two hours a week. Raise will provide you with some online and in person training along with getting a couple of checks (Working with Children check and a National Crime check) – both are quite easy to do.
I’ve chatted to Vicki Condon who is the Founder and CEO of Raise Foundation to shed more light on why she started the foundation and the benefits of volunteering.
Please introduce yourself and tell us about Raise – who you are and what you do?
I’m Vicki, Mum of three great kids with my lovely husband, Leon. I founded Raise Foundation eleven years ago, a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to improving the wellbeing of thousands of young people across Australia. Many young people are not okay and we want to change that by providing best-practice mentoring programs so young people feel heard, valued and supported. Our early intervention mentoring programs impact youth wellbeing, engagement and academic confidence, empowering them to become resilient, capable and connected.
Before founding Raise you were in the corporate world – what was the catalyst to create this organisation?
After working in HR for the first 10 years of my corporate career, I trained as a counsellor and the idea of dedicating myself to helping young people began to grow. It was when I turned 40 that I went to Byron Bay (one of my favourite places) to really think about what I wanted, and wrote a whole business plan for a charity dedicated to improving the lives of young people. When I returned home, I put the business plan away thinking that Australia had enough charities already. A few months later, our 14 year-old family friend died by suicide and it rocked our family. That was the catalyst for me and I decided we had to do something. It was the day after the funeral that I pulled out the business plan, thinking “If I could just help one young person, it would be worth it.” That was the beginning of what is now Raise Foundation and since 2008 we’ve matched 5,421 young people with a volunteer mentor and trained almost 4,000 people to be volunteer mentors in their community. We plan to offer our program in every public secondary school in Australia.
What are the main reasons for mentoring a young person?
What are the benefits? And why is the 13-15 age group most beneficial?
We want to turn the tide in the mental health crisis facing young people today. Suicide is the highest reason for death in young people and 1 in 4 have a mental health condition. 1 in 10 are completely disengaged from education, employment and training. Our mentoring programs aim to create thriving communities by empowering young people to become resilient, capable and connected. We know the power of having someone neutral to talk to, who really listens and actually hears you, is extraordinary. Mentors can change thinking and save lives. Research shows that quality mentoring greatly increases a young person’s confidence and self-respect. Evidence shows that young people with a mentor finish high school, find employment, progress in their career path, have less depression and higher wellbeing, can find emotional support, have greater resilience and higher confidence.
Who can become a mentor?
Anyone over the age of 21 can become a mentor. Mentors are all volunteers from the community who come from all walks of life and backgrounds. They can be anyone interested in making a difference; parents of school age children or retirees who are looking to connect with generations younger than them; psychology or education students; or mentors from corporations. Typically, they have empathy, they like young people and feel they would like to connect with them. Mentors do not require any formal qualifications but must pass our youth safety checks and complete the Raise Mentor Training Course.
For someone interested in volunteering with Raise, what are the first steps involved?
- Engage with Letters to My Mentor to understand the difference a mentor makes – check it out at www.letterstomymentor.com.au
- Click the Become a Mentor button where you will be asked some basic details so we can give you more information
- Receive an application form to fill in asking more in-depth questions
- Complete a Working with Children Check and a National Crime Check
- Receive access to our online training portal
- Complete our accredited training
- Choose a program that suits you
- The Program Counsellor will be in touch to introduce you to other mentors ahead of the program starting in April 2020
Raise is going from strength to strength, what is your proudest achievement to date?
I’m not a particularly proud person, but I am particularly proud of being able to raise three strong children, while bringing good mentors to thousands of others.
My Dad used to walk around our home when I was young saying, “plan it and do it”, and I think of him often for motivation.
I hope that gives you an insight about what’s involved in the program however Raise have a few programs to choose from and several ways to help the organisation. Head over to the Raise Foundation website for more details https://raise.org.au/ or to speak to someone in person.
If you have any questions for me (or Matt) with my personal experience then please shoot me an email email@example.com and I’d be happy to share more with you.
You definitely have time to get involved in the 2020 program which begins in March and goes through to September. It’s a wonderful commitment and I’m sure you’ll find it so rewarding.