Since the launch of the Get Connected programme at the end of 2021, CXK has seen a number of young people start their placements with their mentors and begin moving towards the goals they set at the start of their mentoring journey.
Get Connected is a peer mentoring programme in Kent and Medway aimed at supporting young people with additional needs to improve their skills and connect with other young people in their community. The project has been funded to prioritise support for young people with autistic spectrum conditions (ASC).
The programme matches the young people with a trained mentor, and together they take part in structured activities based in and around Maidstone, Dartford, and Gravesham. The mentors accompany mentees to an activity of their choosing for up to 20 weeks, helping the mentee to build confidence, increase personal/social skills and connect with their community.
Rhys Boxall-Roye, Coordinator for Get Connected, says: “Each young person joins us because they have their own challenges with accessing mainstream youth activities. These included barriers such as anxiety, low social confidence and inaccessible activities. We’ve been working together with the young people on programme and service providers to lessen some of these barriers and get mentees connected to their community again.
“As a result, there are currently five pairs of young people in Maidstone and Gravesham attending activities in the community every week, and additional young people in the process of joining the programme in Gravesham and Dartford. A feat that seemed impossible for some at the initial meeting we had at the start of the programme.
“Mentors have been using their training around autism, disability acceptance and active listening to better support their mentees in a community environment. Including supporting their mentees to communicate to their peers what their neurodivergence means to them and breaking stereotypes about that other young people have had about autism in the process.
“The biggest success of this programme is that the mentors aren’t just providing practical support around social skills; they also give mentees the comfort and steadiness to be unapologetically themselves out in the community, and that’s invaluable. Especially after the isolation of the past two years.”
Amy, a Maidstone-based Get Connected mentor, said, “I have loved my experience mentoring with CXK so far! It has been so rewarding, I feel like it has really helped to boost my confidence as well as given me the chance to help someone else develop theirs.”
There are still spaces available in Maidstone, Dartford and Gravesend for both mentees (aged 11-19) and mentors (aged 16-19) to join the programme. For further information and details of how to apply as a Get Connected mentor or mentee, visit: www.cxk.org/services/get-connected, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 01233 224244.