AN unique, new South Lanarkshire project is looking for volunteers to help change young people’s lives.
Chance to Change, as it is known, will help tackle reoffending by pairing persistent young offenders with volunteer mentors who will encourage and support their path towards training, education and work.
Begins a spokesperson: “The project co-ordinators will fully train and advise the volunteers while they meet regularly with young people who have committed multiple low-tariff offences but have expressed a desire to change their lives and seek employment.
“Mentors will discuss ambitions, interests and concerns with the young person they are matched with, offering them a sympathetic ear, encouraging positive lifestyle changes and making suggestions as to how they can successfully find a new path in life.
“The project is run by Voluntary Action South Lanarkshire (VASLan), and they are looking in particular for mentors from professional backgrounds, whether currently employed or not, who will have knowledge and experience of the working world and how these young people could adapt.
“Although VASLan are still on the hunt for mentors, those who have already signed up are raring to go.”
Karen Munro has been volunteering with VASLan mentoring projects for five years and will be participating in Chance to Change as well. She feels that helping to build confidence is a key part of what mentoring brings.
She said: “Confidence can be life-changing because it completely changes the way they think about things. One girl I mentored was very shy and withdrawn, worried about gangs and bullies.
“Through working with the project she got into education, is now in work, and still gets in touch now and then.
“Being able to share good and bad experiences really helps, letting young people know we all go through rough times but you can still use that to help yourself and others.”
Former NHS manager, Peter Stephen, is new to mentoring. He sees this project as offering something different from the services currently in place.
He said: “This will give a personal, one-to-one form of contact, rather than making the young people feel like they’re just in a system. That gives you the chance to develop a relationship and build up some trust.”
Jean Evans is another newcomer, but her background in working in prisons means she is well aware of some of the issues the project will be dealing with.
She said: “I was attracted by the fact that the mentoring process lasts a whole year. Consistency is something that really helps offenders. A lot of similar services are very time-limited, but this is different. It’s about building a relationship rather than meeting targets.”
Chance to Change is based on VASLan’s Employability Project which has been running in various forms for over a decade and features a similar training framework.
Adds spokesperson: “It has worked with almost 400 young people classified as ‘hard to reach’, 40 per cent of which were also young offenders. Follow-up reporting indicates that 75 per cent of participants felt their lives had been improved by the project.
“Chance to Change will work with 40 prolific young offenders over the next two years. Once the mentoring phase is complete, VASLan’s employability staff will become heavily involved, flagging up suitable training, learning, volunteering or work placements.
“Partners involved in the new programme include VASLan, South Lanarkshire Council, Routes to Work South and the Community Justice Authority, with funding from the Robertson Trust and the Scottish Government.”
VASLan are currently looking for mentors throughout South Lanarkshire.
Anyone interested in helping should contact Ian McLaughlin on 01698 300 390 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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