It started with a casual conversation with a friend – one that sparked Deng on a journey to discovering his passion.

Hearing the stories of camp, games, laughter and growth were enough to convince Deng to sign up to the GOAL Mentoring Program.

“I had a genuine desire to help others grow and succeed” recalls Deng.

“I saw the GOAL mentoring program as a great opportunity.”  

The Western Bulldogs Community Foundation’s GOAL Mentoring program is open to 12–17-year-olds from an African cultural background who live in Melbourne’s West.

Mentors like Deng play a vital role in facilitating the growth of the young people, building relationships by walking alongside the group as they are exposed to diverse education and physical activity programs.

Before they can do so, the mentors must also be mentored.

Deng participated in various workshops, which he found eye-opening.

"We tackled everything from cultural nuances amongst the African community, to personal challenges like mental health,” he said.

“It was about equipping us with the skills we need to building rapport with the young people, to handle real-life situations with empathy.”

This training laid the foundation for the supportive relationships he would go on to build with the participants.

But even Deng was surprised at how well relationships flourished amongst the young people during the GOAL camp – a clear highlight of the year.

A combination of confronting physical challenges such as the giant swing, canoeing and BMXing, engaging with culture through workshops and music, and socialising around the campfire, the young people were weaved into one big tight-knit group.

“They created lifelong friendships in just the space of a few days and it was crazy how you couldn’t tell that some of them didn’t even know each other a few weeks prior!” Deng said.

The program itself was packed with activities that were as fun as they were meaningful.

From team sports like basketball and netball to an excursion to the immigration museum and through it all, Deng witnessed and experienced growth.

“To sum it up, I saw an increase in confidence” recounts Deng.

 “Some of the participants were shy at first, but by the end, they had vastly improved their communication skills becoming more engaged in conversations and participation.

 “I think patience was also a quality I definitely gained over the weeks of the program, as well as adaptability!” he added with a laugh.

It’s safe to say that mentorship isn’t always a smooth ride, but as Deng explains, it’s the shared bumps that make the GOAL experience so special.

“Mentoring is not only about giving back but also about personal growth and learning - you’ll get to understand yourself just as much as you get to understand the participants.”

Reflecting on his time with the GOAL program, Deng’s enthusiasm is evident.

He believes in the power of connection and the joy found in shared experiences. His story highlights the value of mentorship, whilst wisely noting it’s so much more than just giving back to the community.

“To me, mentoring isn't just about imparting knowledge; it's about building relationships, offering guidance, and fostering personal and professional development.”

Applications to become a GOAL mentor are now open for 2024. All are encouraged to express their interest here.