Author: Jorgia Brown

Why volunteering is its own reward

Over past 7 years, The Greater has built a relationship with the Cerebral Palsy Alliance through its involvement in mentoring programs, Ignition and Emerge. The Ignition program is a chance for teenagers dealing with different degrees of Cerebral Palsy to interact with others, form friendships and find support. The program is run fortnightly for a small group of participants aged 14 to 17 at The Greater’s head office in Hamilton.  Wayne Dean, Ryan Foster and Travis Hall have kindly volunteered this year to be mentors in the program and what follows is some insight into their experiences so far. 

Leading up to the program there were a few nerves, however, Wayne and Travis both discovered that the jitters were nothing to worry about.

“I had no hint of nervousness until five minutes before meeting our mentees. The introduction was easier than I expected, and really was well coordinated...It is an experience that has built more confidence within myself,” Wayne said.

“Leading up to the first meeting I must admit I was pretty nervous...We spent the first 10 minutes trying to find each other, meeting everyone in the room along the way, then when we finally found each other, we had something to talk about,” Travis went on to say.

The program aims to build confidence in not only the brave mentees but also the mentors. We asked our volunteers why they chose to participate in the program. For Ryan, it’s the willingness to try new things and get involved in The Greater community.

“I’ve never really been involved with anything like this before, and I’m always willing to try new things, so it seemed like a perfect opportunity to expand some horizons while at work also (build) a greater awareness and understanding of how life is living with a disability. From this I’m hoping I might even become a better, more patient person because of it.”

Travis has said that the program is a two-way street that allows mentors and mentees to teach each other.

“I am really looking forward to imparting what wisdom and knowledge I have gathered over the years to someone who is seeking guidance, but I am also keen to learn a thing or two from my mentee.”

There are many activities over the duration of the program, including Descriptive Poster Creation:“where mentee and mentor would interview one another with set questions and create a descriptive poster about their partner based on the results, Travis explained”

One main highlight for all the boys has been the chance to participate in Laser Skirmish at the old Maitland Goal.  It was a brilliant opportunity to break down barriers and have a little fun.

“Aside from the obvious, it was great to finally feel ‘accepted’ by the lads when they discovered the ‘old guys’ don’t mind the odd first person shooter experience either,” Ryan said.

Travis describes his mentee as a ‘military buff’ who loved the chance to run around and pretend.

“My mentee is a bit of a military buff, so he was loving running around with a gun and shooting everything, and as I am a bit of a keyboard warrior with FPS computer games, I think I was having just as much fun as him,” Travis said.

Wayne feels that his young mentee is benefitting from the program:“Confidence is the main area where I believe my mentee is growing. (He is) also becoming more independent and benefitting from social interaction with new people”.

The Ignition Mentoring Program is a great opportunity for teenagers living with a disability to gain a greater sense of confidence and self-worth and know they are not alone in their journey.

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