Neia Ferrao (left) and Chloe Wright

Chloe Wright with mentor Neisha Ferrao.


By Paul O'Rourke

Mentor Neisha Ferrao says she has gained as much as she’s given from her enduring relationship with Devonport High School student Chloe Wright.

“I’ve grown in confidence, had my horizons expanded, and just been so inspired by Chloe,” Neisha said.

“We hold hands and walk this journey together.

“I see a lot of myself in Chloe.”

Neisha and Chloe, now 14, have met weekly for more than five years and built a friendship they hope will be lifelong.

Neisha said she also suffered from debilitating anxiety as a child growing up in India, but unlike Chloe who has a mentor, had to battle her fears alone, withdrawing and limiting her work prospects due to low self-esteem.

She marvels at how Chloe has grown in confidence, combining drama, design and technology, and media with sport and academic studies.

Chloe chosen as aspiring leader

Chloe is also part of the school’s aspiring leaders program, helping to organise school events and offering various ideas for improving life for students who struggle with anxiety or sitting still.

Neisha said Chloe was a sensitive and compassionate young lady who was quick to reach out to the hurting and lonely. These traits are important to Neisha whose 14-year-old son has severe autism which prevents him from attending a mainstream school.

“I was so impressed that Chloe went to our son’s school as part of the young leaders program at Devonport Primary School to get first-hand experience of children with special needs.

“She is very observant and very sensitive.”

Chloe said she was nervous when she first met Neisha as an anxious Grade 3 student.

“I had anxiety and needed someone to talk to about things,” she said.

“We had similar interests.

“She’s a good listener and communicates well. We started playing board games and Neisha taught me to knit.

“I've grown in confidence, particularly since coming to high school.

“I’m much more willing to try new things and speak up.”

Battleships via Zoom

During the COVID-19 shutdown, they resorted to playing the Battleships game via Zoom.

These days, the conversation flows naturally and easily, and frequently, not at all.

“Sometimes we don’t speak at all because there’s no need. We just get each other,” Neisha said.

“She’s taught me about technology including Instagram, what it’s like to be a teenager, and how to play basketball.

“It seems like our roles are interchangeable.”

There are times of laughter and tears as they negotiate life together.

Neisha said she would continue to stand with Chloe for as long as she was needed.

Neisha and her husband James became mentors in 2016 after seeing a Devonport Chaplaincy Facebook post.

They had served various community groups in country South Australia and wanted to give back when they moved to Tasmania.

Devonport Chaplaincy assesses, trains and supervises mentors who are carefully matched with students requiring extra support. Mentors and students meet weekly for an hour during school terms.

Our next mentor training is scheduled for September. To find out more about becoming a mentor, phone the chaplaincy office on 6417 3175 or via email contact@devonportchaplaincy.org.au

Neisha and Chloe