16 March 2023
Long term volunteers at a Dandenong Ranges church after-school program have helped make a difference to the lives of some of the students, its coordinator says.
St Mark’s Emerald Powerhouse Kid’s program coordinator Anne Benc said volunteers have built solid connections with many of the students to the extent that they have likely played positive roles in their lives, particularly for those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Ms Benc said the weekly initiative for children from prep to grade 4 had been running since 2015, and during COVID had been conducted online.
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She said that most of the helpers were older women who had remained committed to the program and that that had contributed to a comfortable, more secure atmosphere.
Ms Benc believed that because the 20 to 25 children who participated regularly saw the same volunteers throughout that time, some might have come to view them as surrogate grandparents in a way.
She said particularly for those doing it very hard, it might have helped build considerable trust.
Ms Benc said one of the successes of the program included a student who had been experiencing difficulties and hadn’t been to school since the COVID restrictions were lifted, but who had started going to Powerhouse Kids.
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”For the family to see him want to leave the house and participate in the program and engage with others, it’s been a blessing,” she said.
Ms Benc said she tried to make the volunteers feel valued.
“It’s hard to get people, especially men, who are dedicated to helping, so I do try to care for them. I always write them a thank you at the end of each term and encourage them on their journey, as well,” she said.
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