I hear you say, ‘Why on earth is LifeXchange running a mentoring project in Vredenburg?’
Yes, not Vredendal, and also not Vredenberg, Belville…but Vredenburg, the small town 12km north of Saldanha. Population 40 000. And LifeXchange is now involved with 63 of them!
You see, it all started a few years ago when LifeXchange began working closely with the Department of Social Development (DSD) in Cape Town, Western Cape. A little known fact is that LifeXchange was included in the writing of policy for the latest Western Cape Youth Development Strategy at the time, and, not letting the opportunity go to waste, we managed to sneak in the word ‘Mentoring.’ Once that was achieved, we knew that they had no option but to come back to our door and ask us to help roll it out!
DSD in Cape Town led us to DSD in Vredenburg. They approached us asking for help to start a mentoring process to support the youth going through the IDZ learnership programmes in the Saldanha area and turn around the high drop-out rates they were experiencing. Naturally, we jumped at the chance! And with ten of their own social workers signing up to mentor, it was all systems go!
Except, well…then it wasn’t. DSD couldn’t provide any more funding for the project, and when we renewed our contract with them they asked us to match 5 students to 1 mentor each. What?! Haven’t they heard of best practice, evidence-based mentoring? How deep can a relationship go in groups? And who could really give up five hours of their time every week to invest in five different people? Is the government asking for the impossible, or are we too elite?* Anyway, after our initial reaction, we realized that at the end of the day there is too much need and not enough hands around to step in and help. So maybe a compromise could work?
July saw the official Initiation between each of the mentors and their groups of mentees. The jury is out as to whether this intervention will achieve as much success as we experience in our long-term, one-on-one, best-practice-and-beyond mentoring processes we are used to. But, LifeXchange is committed to evidence-based processes, and through our baseline assessments, continual evaluations and final assessments including comparisons between non-mentored and mentored students, we will be able to give definitive answers to the government (and you!) as to whether it is worth investing in this type of support in the future.
And so, why are we operating in Vredenburg? Because we are working on finding the sure-fire solutions that bring sustainable transformational growth in people’s lives!
*Seriously, please tell us what you think!
by Tammy Mewes