When his mum first suggested he begin hanging out with an older person through the TRY Mentoring Program, Greg,* 16 was unimpressed. But, seven months on, he values the Saturday afternoons he spends with his volunteer mentor Dan, 72. For his part, Dan enjoys using his life experience to support Greg — and learning to improve his badminton skills.
I was having problems with my stepdad and I didn’t have a biological dad in my life and my mum thought the mentoring program would be a good idea. She told me there was a program where you can have an older friend and you can hang out.
I was reluctant at the start, but I decided to give it a go. Everybody has to agree it’s OK, and when I met Dan, I really liked him.
At the start, I thought hanging out with a senior wasn’t the way I’d like to spend my Saturday but now I think meeting up with someone who is 20, 25 or 30 would be weirder than meeting up with someone Dan’s age. Dan has a lot of cool stories about the things he’s done.
It’s great, we talk about everything and he gives me tips to live my life.
I tend to be a bit lazy…sometimes I feel like I don’t want to go to school and just stay at home, but Dan motivates me to go to school and do well at school and get a good job and things like that.
I hang out with my friends and stuff, but we don’t talk about life plans or encourage each other to do schoolwork. Dan is the only one who encourages me - my mum just forces me!
I’ve taught him how to play badminton, he’s still not the best, no offence, but he is getting better.
The program is for 12 months but I assume we will probably just keep going. Dan’s a great person.
My partner’s daughter suggested I become involved in the program so I went to some training over one evening and one full day on a weekend before I met Greg. I’ve been mentoring him since March.
He’s my guinea pig. I’ll have to apologise to him after 12 months!
We catch up most Saturdays, we’ve only missed one when Greg had the flu.
We try to mix it up a little, Greg’s a good badminton player so we play badminton and he teaches me how to play. We’ve had a go at squash, 10-pin bowling, a bit of cooking and we might see a movie every now and then. Plus Try.org arrange events and outings every so often.
I’m definitely benefiting from our relationship and I think I’ve been pretty lucky because, to be honest, when this first started Greg wasn’t that keen to do it. He’s got a good relationship with his mum and a not so good relationship with his stepdad and he doesn’t see his biological dad at all so I think we are building a bit of a rapport where I can be that sort of support for him.
We have all been 16, and that’s interesting because when Greg and I are together, I’m often thinking ‘What was I doing at that point of my life when I was his age?’.
I’d absolutely recommend the program to other seniors, there’s no requirement to do anything other than have a relationship to the benefit of Greg and myself.
A couple of his close friends know that he has this mentor thing going on, but I think it’s good that he keeps it to himself mainly. It’s not a program that you are trying to go out and boast about or show anybody, it’s a very private thing; you are building a relationship that has some depth to it rather than just for show.
TRY Mentoring connects at-risk and vulnerable young people aged 7-20 years old with a positive adult role model, and supports volunteers to empower, guide and listen to young people as a fully trained mentor. Visit its website.
*not his real name