A group of volunteers are using their skills – like ukulele, woodworking, basketball and cooking – to mentor primary school kids who need extra support and encouragement.
Through the mentoring program, called ‘Chappy Chums’, the trained volunteers spend 30 minutes a week with a student at Bald Hills State School, building their confidence while doing fun activities.
The school chaplain, Kylie Conomos, started Chappy Chums last year with two mentors, but this year it’s grown to nine mentors.
Kylie says the children who participate may need extra support for a range of reasons – some need extra encouragement, while others have experienced grief or loss, or may have a family member who is very unwell.
“These children are experiencing a range of different circumstances, but all of them benefit from having someone who will show up just for them every week, show them that they care, and take interest in them for who they are,” she says.
“Mentors usually do a fun activity with the student, but also make time to talk, build rapport, asking how their week has been or how they’re coping with school. Mentors encourage the kids, and maybe even brainstorm together about how to solve any problems that are going on.”
Kylie says the mentors do different activities with the students, like science experiments, arts and crafts, board games, basketball and woodwork projects.
“I’ve got a lady who is very good on the ukulele and guitar, so she played the guitar with a student last year who couldn’t have lessons. Another lady does cooking with a student who recently lost her mum.”
Kylie says the volunteers, who primarily come from four local churches, are all different ages, ranging from university students through to grandparents.
“They’ve made such an impact in these children’s’ lives.
“At the beginning of the year, there was one boy who didn’t have any friends. But with help from his Chappy Chum, he’s developed ways to interact better with others. It’s been really nice to see him make friends.”
The program has been praised by school staff, including the school’s former guidance officer, Lisa Healy. “I became aware of the benefits of Chappy Chums when I noticed striking changes in one of the students last year,” Lisa says.
“Within just a few weeks, there was a noticeable difference in his general demeanour. Before starting the program, he was regularly seen walking into class with stooped shoulders, head down and an unhappy face. But then one day, I saw a very different lad. He was smiling and walking with a light step. That was Chappy Chum day.”
Thank you to all of our volunteers – you are making such a difference! If you’d like to volunteer in a school, email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 1300 478 753, and we would love to connect you with your local chaplain.