‘She reminded me that I’ve got as much right as anyone else to participate’
The mentoring program providing support to women during COVID-19
Applications are now open for volunteer mentors to participate in the ACCESS mentoring program, to support women in accessing the next step in their journey towards economic safety.
The ACCESS program, developed by Women’s and Girls’ Emergency Centre (WAGEC) is a mentoring and targeted support program that builds access to employment opportunities, training and education for women impacted by homelessness and/or domestic and family violence.
This round of mentor recruitment follows the successful pilot of the program in 2020. WAGEC CEO, Helen Silvia, says the ACCESS program has provided much needed support to women experiencing increased isolation and barriers to participating in work and study due to COVID-19.
“When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, WAGEC was overwhelmed by the incredible compassion and generosity of individuals and organisations wanting to support women and children experiencing increased disadvantage and hardship,” says Helen.
Under the pilot round, mentoring relationships commenced from May 2020 at the height of spatial distancing restrictions and community lockdown.
“Our incredibly patient and compassionate group of mentors really showed up for their mentees, and played an integral role in supporting them through the pandemic”, says Helen.
Leila* completed the ACCESS mentoring program in 2020, and says that her mentoring relationship made her feel more connected during the pandemic. “Everything was shut”, she says, “my routine was interrupted and I felt disconnected”. She was paired with a mentor who shared her personal passions and interests.
“Mentoring has been helpful having someone I am connected to with similar interests”, says Leila.
COVID-19 restrictions meant that the ACCESS program, initially designed as an in-person mentoring program, has become increasingly flexible and accessible for mentors and mentees. During the pilot round, mentors and mentees met mostly virtually, meeting face-to-face as restrictions eased. As Leila described, “it’s great to have flexibility to meet and work together on our terms”.
In 2021, the program aims to attract more mentors from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. Women participating as mentees in the pilot round of ACCESS came from a range of diverse cultural and language backgrounds, with almost 60% of mentees speaking other languages in addition to English and almost 70% of whom were born outside of Australia.
Leila was paired with a mentor who spoke her language and says this common bond helped to build a trusted connection with her mentor.
“My mentor speaks my language – for women whose English is not that great, it would be great for them to have a mentor who speaks their same language”, says Leila.
The ACCESS mentoring program provides mentors with an opportunity to have a direct, positive impact on a woman’s life by supporting her to achieve her goals. Mentors receive professional, specialist training and experience to add to their work and volunteer history, and an opportunity to improve their coaching, mentoring and leadership skills.
The ACCESS program partners with other charities and organisations supporting women, and supports the NSW Women’s Strategy 2018-2022. Mentoring relationships run for six months, commencing from February 2021.
To apply, mentors must be over 18 years of age and identify as female. Women interested in becoming a mentor can visit the WAGEC website for more information and to apply. To read the Frequently Asked Questions and apply, click here.
Applications close at 11:59pm on Sunday 3 January 2021.
*Name changed for confidentiality.