Cherishing the next generation

02 October 2019 | Midlands

Hannah Simnett speaking at a conference

Mentoring scheme gives girls a brighter future

Schoolgirls in Birmingham are being taught how to deal with issues such as low self-esteem, body image, bullying and relationships thanks to an inspirational mentoring scheme.

Cherished offers support for girls in primary and secondary schools across Birmingham and is committed to nurturing, empowering and developing their true potential.

“A school might contact us and ask us to come in because there is a particular issue, say with social media,” says founder Hannah Simnett. “We will go in for the day and speak to the whole year group and individuals if necessary. We will also look to bring in inspirational speakers.”

Cherished recruits women from the community to train as mentors who use their own stories to empower the next generation. They work with girls as young as four, and girls are often referred to them by agencies including the police, social services and schools.

The charity also reaches out to girls facing serious issues such as grooming and sexual exploitation. “We think early intervention is better to prevent issues from happening,” says Hannah. “But we are also reactive. We get lots of calls from girls who are being sexually exploited and groomed. We believe every girl needs to feel safe and secure as well as be seen and soothed. If they don’t get that from an early age they will do anything to get this from elsewhere. And that is where things can go wrong.”

Hannah, 27, came up with the idea for Cherished when she was an 18-year-old university student. After troubled teenage years, she vowed she was going to do everything in her power to make sure girls like her had a mentor they could confide in and who would show them their true worth.

She founded Cherished in 2011, as a not for profit organisation based in Sutton Coldfield.

“I wanted to turn the negative experiences I faced into a force for good,” explains Hannah. “I would have loved to have had a mentor at school. The teenage years can be so tricky to navigate, with issues like bullying, body image and difficult relationships. It’s at that time that you really need someone to talk to. I wanted the girls to have someone that believed in them but also brought out their potential.”

Today Cherished has a staff of nine and up to 120 volunteers. More than 1000 girls have been nurtured through their 1:1 mentoring programme and Cherished supports girls in more than 35 primary and secondary schools across Birmingham. They’ve also trained more than 500 women within the community to become skilled mentors.

Hannah adds: “What we offer is trauma informed support. My heart’s desire is that Cherished allows girls to live their lives knowing that they were made with purpose and reason; they were created to be cherished and adored. My goal is to reach as many girls as possible. In the future I envisage opening a Cherished Academy, a centre of excellence, so girls at risk of exclusion, or in any kind of trouble, can come and study with us and find their safe place.”

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