Kids’ social skills programme builds confidence with help of mentor

Social Socks is a fledgling community programme that helps young children understand and talk about their feelings and equip them with the social and personal skills to flourish.

The brainchild of Lesley Bates and Shirley Jourdain, Social Socks Charitable Trust was set up to develop and deliver the interactive and engaging Social Socks programme for children in school years one to three which is run for one hour sessions over a seven week period.  

With a background in school chaplaincy and counselling Lesley could see a real need for more focus on socials skills development in childhood education.  Having successfully piloted Social Socks in Feilding Lesley knew she had the building blocks for a great programme and she knew it had to be set up on a solid and professional footing to be sustainable. 

“While I was getting great feedback about the programme I knew I needed help to get things set up in a business-like way to be able to build Social Socks and extend it to other areas. The business side of it was just overwhelming,” Lesley said.

Luckily she was referred to Community Mentors’ Agency Manager Karen Blair at Vision Manawatu and was matched with mentor Pete French in August 2014.  

“Pete is an amazing gift.  He’s given me reassurance I was on the right track, helped me to become more confident and more assertive,” Lesley said.

“I think with Pete’s early background in farming and understanding of isolation he knew where I was coming from. We quickly hit it off and that gave me trust and confidence to be able to ask any questions, regardless of how dumb they may have been.”

Pete French is an experienced businessman who has founded and run successful companies and, for the past nine years, worked in business broking, commercial property sales and property leasing.

“When I first met Lesley and discovered what she was doing with Social Socks and what she wanted to achieve I was captured by her idea.  She had good support in place from family, an accountant and a lawyer but she was scared of the workload and needed help to focus on the right things. So we spent time working out the small steps needed to reach the big goal and to focus on those and grow in a measured fashion,” Pete said.

Pete says he contemplated becoming a mentor for a few years but didn’t think he had the time.  He was convinced otherwise and became a mentor to help charitable trusts and community organisations develop the business nous that’s often missing.

“As a mentor to Lesley my job has been to listen, offer guidance and reinforcement, make sure she puts the systems and tools in place and give her confidence that she can succeed.”

Social Socks is about developing skills and building confidence in kids and Pete says that’s largely his role as a mentor to people like Lesley who have a good idea and technical skills but recognise their shortcomings in business and dealing with business people.

“She’s got a tremendously good product and passion to take it forward.  It’s really grabbed my interest.”

Lesley and Pete have been meeting regularly since they met and Pete often checks in by phone.

“Pete is there to show me what I need to do, not to do it for me. He supports me and in counselling terms he’s a bit of a scaffold. For anybody like me who’s just starting out or thinking of ways to get help, I’d say you need to give Community Mentors a ring straight away,” said Lesley.