SINCE joining the Salvation Army Karinya’s LARF program as a volunteer, Scott Bertus has watched the child he mentors grow into a confident and dynamic young man.
LARF was conceived in 2002 to provide ongoing connections to children experiencing social isolation.
The successful mentorship program, which celebrates its 10th anniversary tomorrow, has helped more than 100 children in Ballarat by giving them access to one-on-one mentoring with volunteers aged between 16 and 30.
When Mr Bertus, 25, signed up as a volunteer three years ago, his young mentee had no friends at school.
“Now he is starting to develop friendships and he’s going through that period of who he wants to hang out with and who his friends are,” Mr Bertus said.
“It’s the confidence within himself as a person and the way he deals with challenges now and the problem-solving he goes through.
“He has played a bigger part in it than anyone. It’s quite special that we can solve problems together and have good times.”
Co-ordinator Melinda Kelly said LARF stood for life skills, activities, relationships and fun.
She said because the mentors were young people themselves, they related easily to the children they worked with.
“We’ve seen them develop social skills and self-confidence. We’ve seen them develop at school as well as at home.
“Some of the mentees I worked with when they were eight or nine have come back as mentors now.”