Connor’s North Belfast Centre of Mission has issued an appeal for volunteers to come forward to be trained as Transforming Lives for Good (TLG) mentors.
Sister Karen Webb, Church Army Evangelist at the Connect Base centre in Shankill Road, said that many children in the area will be struggling with emotional issues and will have fallen behind in learning due to the long closure of schools.
And she urged people to consider signing up for training as a coach.
“TLG is a mentoring programme for upper primary aged children who are in danger of being excluded from school,” Karen explained.
“Our coaches meet with a child for one hour a week for a year, helping the child, through craft projects and other resources, to emotionally mature and be able to cope with the learning environment. Simply to be a safe adult for them.
Karen said that TLG in the Greater Shankill area started in 2017 with just six coaches, and within a year this had increased to 15.
“We had been working in two different schools in the Greater Shankill area before Covid-19 restrictions meant we could no longer go into the schools,” she said. “Going forward, we are so aware that many more children in this area will be struggling with anxiety and emotional distress and will have fallen behind in learning.
“The TLG training for coaches/mentors is exceptional and no coach feels ill-prepared going into a session with a child. Each session is one hour long and takes place in the school during the school day.”
Feedback has been very positive. “TLG mentoring really is one of the best programmes I’ve seen implemented in a [primary] school,” said Genevieve McSorley, principal of Malvern Primary School, Lower Shankill.
“The pupils look forward to their weekly sessions and I’ve noticed a difference in confidence, behaviour and readiness to engage in building good relationships with those around them.
“The more TLG mentors we have in school, the more children will benefit from this excellent initiative.”
Karen said she would love to take the TLG programme into more schools, but needs people prepared to train as TLG mentors.
“The training is fun, straightforward and currently in the comfort of your own home,” she said. “You don’t need any experience or teaching qualifications – just a heart for Jesus, and a willingness to support a child.”