Eleanor McCready and Liz Mann

Eleanor McCready and her mentor Liz Mann share a love for cooking.

By Paul O'Rourke

Liz Mann is sure she’s making a difference after a decade of mentoring.

“At times you wonder if you are making a difference, but then a student you mentor says, ‘I’ve been away from school all week but I came today because I knew you would be here’.

“Another time I was walking near my home and suddenly this car stopped and it’s a former student I mentored and her mum and they want to chat about what’s happening in their lives.”

Liz started mentoring because she wanted to help children and youth who haven’t had the “blessed and privileged upbringing” she enjoyed.

A sheltered life

The DairyTas worker, who grew up in an idyllic farming community in Queensland, admits to being sheltered from the harsh realities of life.

“My parents certainly knew who was doing it tough,” she said.

“It’s quite shocking when you get into the real world. Not everyone has the same opportunities I had.”

Liz and her husband Marty, who works as a volunteer chaplain with Loaves and Fishes Tasmania, wanted to give back, make a difference.

She started as a mentor after hearing Devonport Chaplaincy CEO Andrew Hillier speak about the program at church.

Her twins were little over a year old, and all three children have accompanied her over the years to her weekly mentoring sessions.

“Sometimes you would invite other students to join in the mentoring sessions. Part of the role is helping students build their networks, help them belong.

“You give them someone to talk to about siblings, home troubles, school struggles, the teachers and subjects they like and dislike.

“I also try to give them life skills by doing activities such as cooking. No only are they learning to read a recipe, but they learn the discipline of cleaning up afterwards, and experiencing the satisfaction of making something from scratch.”

'I trust her'

Current mentoree Eleanor McCready, 13, regards Liz as a mother figure whom she trusts with her struggles, fears and successes.

“She makes me want to go to school and learn,” Eleanor said.

The Year Seven Devonport High School student has been meeting weekly with Liz for two years and wants the relationship to continue. She has grown in confidence and learned to handle difficult home and school relationships.

Liz has been a mentor to three girls over the past decade, and believes in the importance of mentoring, and not just for those who come from challenging backgrounds.

Everyone needs a mentor

“We’ve been talking at work about the value of mentoring for some of our graduates; someone they can connect to, like a buddy system for six months.”

Liz said all mentors needed to be patient, consistent, accepting and flexible.

“You have to have suitable personal boundaries, not impose your ideas, and be willing to listen and encourage.''