In this post, Peter Horsley, Volunteer and Corporate Engagement Manager at Cerebral Palsy Alliance, explains how a Telstra Foundation Everyone Connected grant is helping teenagers with cerebral palsy (CP) build their skills and confidence.

Young people with a disability face a number of challenges, often experiencing isolation, loneliness and a lack of self esteem due to their physical challenges, accessibility issues and community prejudice. Research confirms that a well-structured mentoring program can be an effective tool to help address these challenges and build self-confidence and independence as young people approach adulthood.

Cerebral Palsy Alliance runs a successful mentoring program which teams up teenagers with CP with a volunteer adult mentor. Meeting regularly in a group setting, participants have guided discussions around topics chosen by the young people; facilitating meaningful connections between mentees and mentors.

Building on this program, we recognise that technology could provide a great opportunity to expand our mentoring program to teenagers living in remote and regional areas, many of whom also face disadvantage and social isolation.

With the help of an Everyone Connected grant, we are now exploring the best way to extend this “physical” mentoring experience into a digital, online environment.

Twelve teenagers with CP have been invited to participate in the pilot and will be involved in the online community from its design stage. Using video conferencing and tablet technologies, participants will experience the next best thing to a ‘face to face’ mentoring program. The program will also give teens access to business leaders who volunteer as mentors in the program and build technical knowledge and skills.

Effectively, this program is about enabling young people with a disability to realise their potential and we were thrilled to receive the Everyone Connected grant to reinforce the upside of new digital technologies.

Image: Cerebral Palsy Alliance