Community mentors are building valuable relationships with young people in the North West – including residents of Eveline House, an Anglicare-managed youth accommodation facility in Devonport.
One of those who has chosen to be mentored is 20 year old Elias Mahfoud, who said the experience has been life-changing.
“I was a bit of a rough guy in the past, very scratchy and hard to communicate with at times,” said Elias. “I feel like my mentor Joshua has been in similar places in his life experiences. So he’s been able to connect with me where I hadn’t previously been able to connect with anyone out of fear, anxiety or just worry that I’d be too much for the person in front of me”.
“Joshua’s shown me how I shouldn’t be ashamed of who I am but rather embrace it. That’s allowed me to not only connect with others, but with myself as well”.
Peter Smith, a Mentoring Chaplain with Devonport Chaplaincy said the aim of mentoring was to build up a young person’s independence. “It is about empowering young people and helping them to understand how the world works, to be better equipped to deal with life”.
Mentors also serve at a number of schools in the region, connecting with young people at risk of disengaging from education.
“The basis of everything we do is relationship,” said Peter. “We try to be a gentle, calming influence. Someone to talk to, who can give their full attention to that person”.
All community mentors are volunteers who are trained and have mandatory checks completed before being matched with a young person.
“When you watch young people’s lives change, when you see the lights come on, when they get an understanding of who they are and the potential they possess…that’s the most powerful and impressive thing,” Peter said.
Elias said he had been surprised to be offered the chance to be mentored. “Coming from rough circumstances, being homeless in the past, when someone said ‘hey, you can have a mentor’ my jaw was on the ground,” he said. “Since I was young I was always looking for a role model who was a bit older than me and could show me the ropes. But I didn’t know what ropes needed to be shown if that makes sense”.
Elias said experiencing homelessness had been traumatic. “It was pure chaos,” he said. “I was in survival mode. Not knowing if I was going to have food or a roof over my head put me in a position where I was sort of like an animal backed up to a wall”.
Elias is now settled in a unit at Eveline House, a facility purpose built for young people aged 16-24 years which is managed by Anglicare. “Moving in here has been quite transformative,” he said. “I am making connections, I have friends now. I volunteer at a few different places in the community,” he said. “I am painting and drawing and reading and writing”.
“I am starting to dream. I am about to begin a visual arts course at TAFE,” said Elias. “I want to be able to help people express themselves. That’s an area where I’ve always struggled out of fear of being shunned, of being different. But being able to express yourself in a space of non-judgement is big. It’s magic”.
“I plan on working within myself to be a person who can empower others who have walked a similar path to me”.