A program helping to change the lives of young people caring for family members in Victoria’s north has received a significant boost with a $40,000 grant from nib foundation.
The Villa Maria Young Carer Mentor Program, which matches young carers in the region with trained mentors, was launched as a pilot earlier this year after the carers were identified as very socially isolated and often unable to pursue or achieve their own dreams or aspirations.
Program Coordinator Marion Rak says they have 70 young people registered as carers, including some as young as eight years old, looking after family members who are unwell or have a disability.
Marion says the funding will enable the program to reach as many of those carers as possible by recruiting and training mentors who will give them much needed time out from their caring duties.
“There are a number of young carers who are unable to have respite and what we would consider an active young person’s life,” she said.
“Having a mentor gives them the opportunity to realise that they do need to have some time for them and all their life doesn’t have to revolve around the person they’re caring for.”
A mentor’s role can be as diverse as having a coffee with a carer or a stroll through a local market, to kicking a footy in the backyard.
The program has so far trained 24 mentors and matched them with carers and Marion says their goal is to train 50 mentors by the end of next year.
She also aims to have the group become self-sustaining and believes some mentors and carers will develop life-long relationships.
“We appreciate and thank nib foundation sincerely for the grant, for without them the program would not be able to develop and reach the young carers in need,” she said.
nib foundation Chairman, Keith Lynch said for these young people their role as carers impacts greatly on all aspects of their lives including social engagement and personal development through this important period in their lives.
“For young carers in rurally isolated areas, such as the Hume Region, they are at greater risk of delays to their personal development and education, as they are unable to connect with the community or don’t know how to,” Mr Lynch.
“We’re proud to assist Villa Maria continue to provide this important program to young people in the local area which will reduce this isolation by increasing their social connections and also helping them to achieve their life goals and aspirations,” he added.