Jessica and Bianca Harris

Jessica and Bianca Harris. Mentor Elsa Kat "is like a generous aunt".



By Paul O'Rourke

Volunteer mentor Elsa Kat has been a consistent, steady presence over four years in the lives of Devonport twins Jessica and Bianca Harris.

The retired former teacher and events manager believes every interaction with the 16-year-old girls is a learning opportunity.

“A lot of mentoring is about just doing things together and sharing experiences,” Elsa said.

“The family doesn’t have a car, and so we spend a lot of our time doing things and going places, from the swimming pool in summer, to driving in the country to take in the scenery and pat cows, or go on a picnic, walk or shopping.

Elsa, who doesn’t have any children of her own or nieces or nephews in Tasmania, said mentoring filled the need to connect with a younger generation while also getting out of the house.

Elsa individually mentors the Devonport High School students on alternate weeks, but also organises joint activities and outings to bolster their life skills and broaden their worldview.

“Both girls are very chatty and enthusiastic and always express their appreciation for everything you do with them.

“They love animals, so I often bring my dogs along, or we visit friends who have alpacas and ducklings.

“They joke that I will be mentoring their children when I’m through with them!

“We have established a deep trust which allows us to discuss all manner of topics.

“Mentoring is such a valuable experience for all of us.”

Aunt Elsa a trusted friend

The girls consider Elsa a member of the family, a fun aunt who is stable and reliable.

"We can count on her," Bianca said.

"We can talk to her about anything.

"She is fun to be around."

Jessica agrees.

She said the girls had grown in confidence as a result of the steady support.

"We were bullied at primary school and unhappy when we started high school, and then Elsa came along.

"Now, we love school, have friends and have learned to care about others and be kind."