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Mentors Key To Pillars' Service

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

20 August 2008 - Mentors working with children of prisoners have a pivotal role in making a difference in the lives of these children, says Esther Dunstall from PILLARS.

The innovative programme teams the children with mentors to provide one-on-one support.

"These children often have no-one to talk to and many of their friends and the wider community don't even know that they have a parent who is in prison," says Esther Dunstall, Regional Co-ordinator of the PILLARS Mentoring Programme.

PILLARS was established in 1988 as a community-based organisation that supports children of prisoners in New Zealand and aims to break the cycle of crime.

"Children of prisoners are six to seven times more likely to end up in prison than any other child and we want to break this cycle."

Mentor Jacqui* says her role in the child's life has made a huge difference to her own life and how she sees the world.

"Becoming a mentor for PILLARS has been the most satisfying commitment I have made and has added a whole new dimension to my life," she says.

"I have been astounded in the transformations that Melissa* has made in her life this past year."

Every relationship between the mentor and their mentee relationship is different, says Jacqui.

"Each child faces their own issues and each mentor brings a different background and approach to the relationship.

"It takes time to build up a good rapport and trust but once those foundations are there then there is definite scope to be a positive influence - whether it be through building their confidence, talking through challenges (problem solving) or just being a role model for how to live." PILLARS provides a community-based wrap-around service including social work support to the child's family and all the mentors are volunteers.

"The process of matching, mentoring, social work and supervision support has huge potential to positively impact on the families involved. The process works! And I am thrilled to have got to know Melissa and be a supportive person in her life - I am very proud of her and I really enjoy the time we spend together. She is a great kid with a heap of potential, and it is really neat to see her starting to move in positive directions!" says Jacqui.

PILLARS has also used its extensive experience of mentoring prisoners' children to develop two books to guide mentors and young people being mentored.

The "Mentor Guide" and "Young Person's Guide to Mentoring" were produced following 10 years working with children of prisoners.

"There is a real need for more mentors, particular males, to provide these children with someone to talk to who does not judge who they are or where they came from," says Esther Dunstall from PILLARS.

"We have the only mentoring programme specifically aimed at children of prisoners," she says.

"Our mentors have a pivotal role in changing the lives of these high risk young people and breaking the cycle of crime."

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