19 July 2024

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Melbourne churches transform kids’ lives one hour at a time 

St Thomas’ Burwood Kids Hope director Melinda van der Westhuizen. Picture: Supplied.  

Hannah Felsbourg

15 June 2024

Vulnerable children are receiving life-changing support through Melbourne churches’ participation in a nationwide mentoring program. 

Kids Hope empowers volunteers to support primary students to excel in life, offering the volunteers fulfillment and the opportunity to do meaningful work.  

St Thomas’ Burwood and St Hilary’s Kew are among churches nationwide sending trained volunteers into schools to spend time with students who are struggling. 

Volunteers spend one hour a week with a child through the program doing activities such as cooking, playing sports, doing arts and crafts, or just chatting. 

St Thomas’ Kids Hope director Melinda van der Westhuizen said she eagerly looked forward to her one hour each week with her mentee. 

She said after just a few weeks of mentoring, children attended school consistently, participated in class more, and were more willing to try new things.  

Ms van der Westhuizen said the school they partner with through Kids Hope told her they would love to have more mentors. 

She said Kids Hope provided rigorous training and requirements to ensure the safety and well-being of the children involved. 

Read more: Church charity combats cost-of-living crisis year-round

Ms van der Westhuizen said with the proper training and checks, any church member willing to commit an hour a week could become a highly effective mentor. 

“The most important thing is just being there, listening, and being patient and consistent. That is it, and it’s an absolute joy,” said Ms van der Westhuizen. 

St Hilary’s Kids Hope director Libby White said the improvements in children’s lives from mentoring also benefitted their friends, teachers, and family.  

She said children’s emotional resilience increased, they enjoyed coming to school more, and they performed better in classes. 

The children often had a tough time at school or at home and did not receive much individual attention from parents.     

The consistent presence of an adult provided the children with the care and attention necessary for healing and growth. 

Mrs White said the central idea of being a Kids Hope mentor was to be a friend to a child.  

“You’re there just to be with that child, and often the child is the one who talks, and we just sit there and enjoy having a conversation,” said Mrs White. 

More information can be found on the Kids Hope website

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