One to One in Nelson – interview with Dave Marshall

One to One in Nelson – interview with Dave Marshall

Greg Latham

One to One

Greg Latham interviews One To One Mentoring Program co-ordinator Dave Marshall at an outdoor caf≥ somewhere in the heart of the sunniest region of New Zealand.

Waiting for our coffees to arrive, Dave hands me a brochure for his One to One mentoring program and I can’t help notice the unusual caption. A bright gold ‘Shine’ is blazoned across the front followed by the words ‘there are kids in our town who would positively shine” As I open up the glossy, well-designed flier I read on, intrigued: “If they had someone to take a little bit of extra interest in them’. As our lattes arrive I begin to catch a glimpse of what this One to One thing is all about.

Dave, gimme the ‘dets’ on this program of yours.

One to One is a partnership between Nelson Police and Big Brothers Big Sisters (Nelson) Trust and it’s modelled on the internationally successful Big Brothers Big Sisters program that was set up nearly a century ago.

What’s the guts of the program, what’s the essence?

Young people need role models. One to One is based on the idea that adult friendship can provide the support a child or young person needs to grow in a positive way.

How do you make that happen?

I work on matching an at risk young person with a same-gender adult volunteer who seeks to become an appropriate role model or mentor for that person. I’m currently working with sixteen ‘matches’. The mentors range in age from nineteen to eighty-three, the kids between seven and thirteen.

Dave, you’re working with at risk kids. How do you choose them and where do your mentors come from?

The mentees, (Dave tells me this is the term being coined for them), have mostly come to the attention of the police and are at risk of repeat offending. The mentors come from all walks of life; builders, teachers, farmers. It’s really important to screen them very carefully, and I take a lot of time making sure the match between the young person and mentor works.

It’s a pilot scheme isn’t it?

Yes, among the fourteen Police Youth at risk programs Nelson’s is one of three mentoring programs currently running in New Zealand. Ours has been up and running for two years.

Is it working?

Well I’ve been involved in youth work for sixteen years and the key to the successes I’ve seen has been linked to mentoring. The thing that is constantly being identified in youth offenders is the lack of a positive role model in that persons life or background. In this program we’ve seen some really positive results. For those on our program there has been a 90% reduction in their offending after being matched with a mentor. The great thing about mentoring is it’s a very natural thing. I don’t need to find a whole lot of ‘cool’ well trained youth workers, apart from the fact that I would never get enough of them. I use normal, well-rounded people from all walks of life, because it’s really all based on ‘old-fashioned relationships’. That’s the key, and it works.

Tell me about one of your ‘matches’

Fred is eighty three. He and fifteen year old Corey spend about five hours a week together ∆mostly just doing stuff together. They’re like a couple of old mates now (Corey was fourteen when they were matched), and Fred wants it to continue for ‘as long as possible’. It’s a very healthy, safe relationship, where both mentor and mentee get a huge amount out of their relationship. I’ve noticed with another one of the young people on the program that he has developed a real peace, there’s a sense of security about him. That wasn’t there when I first matched him with his mentor.

Is this whole mentoring thing just for at risk kids?

No way. It works for anyone. If you look around it’s happening naturally with loads of kids. But for many young people they don’t get it anywhere. When any child or young person is isolated from positive adult mentors their peer group becomes their key influence. Without an older person for stability they’re like a huge ship without a rudder. They just go, but which way and why often doesn’t come into it. A trusted ‘mate’ who doesn’t necessarily tell them how to run their life but listens and tells of their own experiences can have a very powerful, positive effect. That’s the thing that excites me about the whole mentoring thing.

What could we do as church to utilise this?

I think one reason for the big drop off in the twenty to forty age range missing in churches today is in many ways linked to the fact that mentoring hasn’t happened. If we made the most of the relationship between older and younger people it would make a huge difference to the church family. Young people begin to have a name, a person with interests and often times many hurts. Youth work should never be solely the responsibility of the youth worker or youth leader. The best thing a person in that role could do would be to facilitate and encourage healthy relationships between old and young. That’s what I’m doing and it’s very exciting. Especially when you see the difference it can make.

Another coffee Dave?

Check out the Big Brothers Big Sisters American web site