News News New Gateshead peer mentoring project is the cat's whiskers A visit to one of Newcastle's cat cafes - Mog on the Tyne - proved a real treat for animal-loving Olivia, pictured here with her Children North East peer mentor, Georgia. Olivia is one of the first young people to benefit from our charity's latest peer mentoring project which has just been launched in Gateshead and is looking to recruit more volunteers. There are two other successful peer mentoring services in Newcastle and South West Northumberland run by Children North East. Peer mentors help other young people access activities they enjoy and improve their self-confidence. Georgia, 18, goes to Thorp Academy, Ryton, where she's studying sociology, maths and health and social care. She decided to become a peer mentor with us because she'd enjoyed volunteering at her local primary school and is applying to be a children's nurse. Georgia discovered Olivia loved animals so she arranged for them to visit a cat cafe one week and a dog cafe another. “We always take the bus to places to help Olivia get more confident about taking public transport,” Georgia said. “We’ve been to a climbing wall and also swimming, which was really nice, because whilst Olivia can swim, she wasn’t extremely confident with it so I could help her a little bit with that. “Olivia’s originally from Albania and found it quite difficult to make friends when she was in primary school – but now she’s in Year 7 and all she talks about is her new friends. “I would like to think that our sessions have helped with that. The first couple of times we met she was chatty but still quite reserved – now I can hardly shut her up!” Olivia has really enjoyed meeting up with Georgia and said she couldn’t choose which activity she’d enjoyed the most because she’d loved all of them so much. Her mum, Jehona, explained that Olivia had no English when the family moved here from Albania five years ago and had suffered bullying at her old school. “Olivia really struggled with school because she couldn’t understand anything and I couldn’t help with her homework. But she has really enjoyed spending time with Georgia,” she said. Georgia added that she had personally gained a huge amount from peer mentoring. It’s an amazing experience, the feeling that you get from knowing you’ve improved someone’s confidence in the way they see the world. Knowing that you’ve had an impact on someone’s life is really, really rewarding. The Gateshead project is supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery, which has just announced it's awarded a massive £500m to good causes so far. We are looking for more mentors like Georgia to volunteer with us. You need to be 17-25 years of age and be approachable and reliable. DBS checks and training is all paid for by the charity. If you live in the borough of Gateshead and would like to be a peer mentor, please contact: [email protected] or visit our page about peer mentoring.