Raising a family is a challenge for any parent, but it can be especially overwhelming for mothers who are living on the edge of stability due to poverty, a history of trauma or abuse, and/or mental illness. Mentoring Moms, a program of the Bergen Volunteer Center, trains volunteer mentors to support mothers who are overwhelmed by the responsibilities of raising a family and who are also faced with immense personal challenges.
“I have learned so much about raising my son.” “I feel better as a parent and as a person since meeting my mentor,” say mothers currently in the program. Mentors are caring women who understand how hard it is to raise children and want to make life easier for other moms, who are often referred through community or child service agencies. 95% of the mothers being mentored live below the poverty line and are often single parents with limited resources.
“Mentors provide informal support and access to resources to help strengthen the family unit”, says Cindy Andrake, program director of Mentoring Moms. “We know that parents find it easier to care for their children and themselves when they have a network of positive relationships surrounding them, so often the benefits of supporting mothers extend beyond the parent to the family as well. Most all parents need someone they can call on when they need a sympathetic listener, some advice or ongoing support—our mentors fill that role.”
Volunteers are provided with a free multi-session, 10-hour training program and ongoing support from program staff. Training includes developing listening skills, dealing with communication challenges as well as understanding the role of a mentor. Guest speakers include current mentors and/or mothers who have participated in the program. While each situation is different, one mother aptly described her mentor as “Someone I can talk to besides family, who understands and cares. She makes me think about my life and encourages me.”
Registration is now open for Mentoring Moms Spring training, which begins April 3 from 7:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at the Bergen Volunteer Center, 64 Passaic Street, Hackensack, NJ. Call (201) 489-9454, ext.211 to learn how to become a Mentoring Moms volunteer, and positively impact a mother’s – and her family, too.