CareSouth’s Aunties & Uncles program has helped children, young people and families in the Shoalhaven for many years. The program has been so successful it will open its doors in Batemans Bay this month, after expanding into the Illawarra and Ulladulla regions more than a decade ago.
Aunties & Uncles connects vulnerable children and their families with a volunteer carer who becomes a positive role model and mentor to the young person and provides a support network to their families.
Aunties & Uncles carers are carefully assessed and matched with a child. The success of the program is in its simplicity, with carers spending quality time with the young person by engaging them in everyday activities like walking the dog, cooking, taking them to soccer or dance training, or watching a movie together.
Creating happy childhood experiences for vulnerable young people helps them gain valuable life skills and feel a sense of purpose and worth. This raises their self-esteem and develops trust in others, and it can be life-changing.
Just ask Nowra businessman John Lamont who has seen first-hand the difference the program can make, not just to a young person’s life, but their whole family. Not to mention the positive difference the program has made in his life.
John joined the Aunties & Uncles program in 2013, “purely to give back to the community”. He and his then-wife Louise were matched with nine-year-old twin girls.
“We got two for the price of one,” laughed John, who never dreamed he would gain an “extra family” on his Aunties & Uncles journey.
But fast forward almost a decade and John recently celebrated the twins’ 18th birthday with them and their extended family, of who he has long been considered a part of.
“When we went through all the training it seemed to take forever,” said John. “But it was good because of the matching and the pairing of personalities. We wanted these relationships to last forever, and they have.”
John and Louise bonded with the twins “quite quickly” and monthly visits soon became fortnightly.
“Then they started coming more regularly than
not,” said John. “We’d go to the beach, or Kiama markets, watch their netball,
or go out for fish and chips. We just did everyday stuff but always tried to
make it fun. We really enjoyed the girls’ company. It was really obvious from
early on that it was a great match.”
John credits the twins and their family with
enriching his life immeasurably.
“For me, particularly the last couple of years
after my marriage ended, it’s given me this extra family to be involved with
and help with, it’s given me extra purpose,” said John. “And they always make
“My own kids have been enriched by the whole
experience of having a couple of extra little sisters too. The twins have been
part of our family events over the years and reciprocally I’ve been able to do
the same. I get on great with the girls’ Nana and having a common goal with her
guardians – Mum and Dad as we all call them – has been really good.”
The twins feel the same way.
“At home, it’s usually quite busy with eight
other kids, so it’s nice to get a break and hang out with John and do something
fun or even just watch a movie at home,” said Elizabeth*.
“I don’t really remember a time without John.
Looking back on it, without having John and Louise in our life we probably
wouldn’t be back with all our siblings, we might not have finished school
because who knows where we would’ve ended up.”
“Aunties & Uncles is such a valuable
program,” said John. “It’s a great way for people to experience what giving
back and making a difference can do to a child’s life. There’s no reason why
this relationship with the twins and their family won’t go on forever. It has
brought me so much joy walking beside them on their journey.”
Aunties & Uncles Batemans Bay is now
accepting volunteer carer enquiries from the local community. Also, if you know
a child or family that would benefit from this program, we encourage you to get
in contact with us.
Give us a call on 1300 554 260 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
to learn more about the program and how you can get involved.
Together, we can help a vulnerable young
person create a positive future.
*Name has been changed