Malakai* is a bright young First Nations teenager and was referred to the Stand As One Mentoring Program in early 2023. Spending most of his early life living with his mother and […]
“I never thought I’d amount to anything other than a criminal”: Youth mentoring turned Ben’s life around
Our youth justice mentoring program pairs a young person in custody, soon to be released, with a dedicated mentor to support their journey and create new hope for their future.
One of our volunteer mentors, Kat*, shares her experience mentoring a young person in custody:
The suffering and abuse Ben* faced through his childhood, from a very young age, is unimaginable to me. When I first met him in custody, he’d never had a family member or friend visit… not one.
Looking back on his youth, he once said to me, “I never thought I’d amount to anything other than a criminal”.
In the time since we were first introduced at the youth justice centre, he’s had a transformation.
He has cut ties with old friends from gangs and has really, deeply reconsidered his identity and potential.
I’ve seen him become so much more self-reflective and hopeful for the future life he can build. He has taken up journalling and meditating and has completed his HSC and a leadership course.
Now he’s completing TAFE work and is applying to study at university. He was so excited when I explained what university O-Week was! In the future, he wants to find meaningful work and build a new community outside his old life.
He recently said to me, “I never would have thought I could do this (go to uni) without you”… that was such a huge thing for me. The idea that through our conversations, he was opening up to a different view of what his life could be.
“I never would have thought I could do this (go to University) without you.”
When I think about this program and the impact it has had, I think the opportunity to speak openly and be listened to without judgement made a huge difference.
At the end of the day, we are all hardwired for connection, and it’s so heart-warming to see what just showing up and showing you care for someone’s situation can do for their sense of hope and their belief that they can build a better life.
Without the SHINE for Kids program, Ben might never have had a visitor, let alone someone to support him through his journey and show him that there are other paths we can take.
*Names have been changed to protect individuals’ identities
Programs funded by the NSW Department of Communities & Justice.
Thank you to Gilbert + Tobin for supporting this program.
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