Mentoring has double rewards

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They could be any two guys working out in a university gym on a week night. But Pete, a resident of our longer-term housing program and his mentor, Chirag Patel, are working on building trust and friendship.

The pair was among the first to be teamed up last summer when our new mentorship program launched. The goal is to give our youth adult role models to share their life experience and provide guidance on career planning, education and everyday challenges.

“When we met, we seemed to have a lot in common even though we come from very different backgrounds,” Chirag, a 33-year-old accountant, says.

What he and Pete, a 24-year-old student working part-time, share most is an avid interest in writing. Chirag has written about self-help while Pete is trying his hand at science fiction.

But the two really found their groove when they went to the gym on one of their first outings. “That was the breakthrough. It gave us neutral ground and such an ordinary activity to be doing,” Chirag says. “Now after a workout, we might sit and talk for awhile. It’s rewarding to have impact on a young person’s life. But it is a two-way street. He motivates me to stay in shape so it’s good for both of us.”

Chirag had volunteered previously with Covenant House in Houston and connected with us just as we were preparing to start up the new program. “He’s a good guy and a good activity partner. It’s going better than I expected,” says Pete who has been with us in shelter and longer-term housing for the past two years.

Pete grew up out west and when his parents split up while he was in his teens, he moved with his dad to the U.S. But his dad was “unreliable” and Pete found he couldn’t work or get into post-secondary school so he decided to come to Toronto on his own. What little money he had didn’t last long and, without a job or place to stay, he found his way to Covenant House.

Now he says things are going well and he’s looking forward to a career in tourism management so he can travel the world.

Mentor Co-ordinator Jewela Cabrera is excited by the results she’s already seeing with 14 youth and mentor matches to date. They are asked to connect once a week by phone, text or email and to meet in the community twice monthly where they might have a coffee or see a movie.

Anyone interested in becoming a mentor can contact Jewela at (416) 598-4898 or at cabrera@covenanthouse.ca

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