Creating safe, stable and nurturing environments for children to learn and play

Rocco - MentorED's therapy dog
Issue date:
Loved, safe and nurtured
Learning and developing
Accepted, respected, and connected

A Manawatu-based grassroots organisation is collaborating with schools and other NGOs to bring about better outcomes for tamariki.

MentorED advocate for, support and mentor primary and intermediate school students who have different emotional and educational needs as a result of adverse experiences such as family harm, being in state care or living in transitional housing.

“Some aspects of mainstream schooling can be challenging for these children. We want to help create a trauma-informed education system that is aware of, and caters to, the varying educational and emotional needs of every child,” says Programme Coordinator Fiona Cain.

“Our volunteer mentors are vetted, trained, and thoughtfully matched with a child. They then work to build trusting relationships with the child, through fun, social and emotional education and activities,” says Mercedes Strutt, MentorED Founder and Volunteer.

“We aim to boost confidence and wellbeing in order to help children navigate the challenges of life, using a PACE approach (Playfulness, Acceptance, Curiosity and Empathy) – it’s a way of thinking which deepens the emotional connections in our relationship with others,” says Mercedes.

MentorED’s volunteers come from many different backgrounds: teachers, social workers, scientists, parents, grandparents, and more. What they all have in common is empathy, patience, and commitment to tamariki.  One of their most requested volunteers is Rocco, the labradoodle therapy dog, who visits schools every week!

Alongside one-to-one mentoring, MentorED creates other educational opportunities such as sponsoring access to school camps and paying for digital education platforms.

“Traumatic childhood experiences can have a lasting impact on health, wellbeing and life opportunities.  Promoting acceptance, empathy, and resilience by creating safe, stable and nurturing environments for children to learn and play is essential to mitigating these harmful impacts,” says Fiona.

MentorED believes that advocating for and mentoring children facing adversity can lift school engagement, boost confidence and wellbeing, and ensure every child has access to quality education.

Feedback from teachers involved in the programme includes: “(The volunteer mentor) is a great positive role model, providing consistency for the students. They’re able to support those students that need their "bucket" filled in a one-on-one scenario that teachers can't always provide.”

MentorED partners with a range of schools, agencies and NGOs, including: Oranga Tamariki, the Ministry of Education, NZ Police, Women’s Refuge, Caring Families Aotearoa and SuperGrans Manawatū.

Go to the MentorED website to find out more about their work and impact, and how you can help.