The Starfish Mentoring Program aims to create new, healthy connections through mentorship to guide mentees toward self-efficacy and empowered living. The long term goal is to provide a critical piece of the continuum of care in order to reduce victimization/revictimization and support healthy social reintegration.
Mentees are at-risk, vulnerable, and commercially sexually exploited youth between the ages of 11-24 years of age. They are matched with a mentor who has received over 30 hours of training and a thorough background check. Mentors commit to meeting one-to-one with their youth weekly for no less than one year.
Through this program, mentors meet youth where they are in the community, including if they are placed in foster care or in a facility. Mentoring is complementary and supplementary to services youth already receive and provide a consistent and healthy relationship that remains with youth throughout their journey of healing.
Mentors and mentees build relationships through creative activities and rapport-building exercises, such as:
Opportunities to build confidence (standup paddle boarding, horseback riding,water activities, trying a new sport/something new)
Create new learning experiences (art classes, Hawaiian cultural centers)
Build positive memories and restore childhood (trampoline parks, bowling)
Engage them in planning for their future (visiting colleges and museums)
According to the National Mentoring Resource Center, creative activities and rapport-building exercises are new healthy and positive experiences that combat complex trauma. These activities encourage trust and engagement, resulting in significant improvements:
Positive future orientation
Positive self-perception and self-worth
The framework for the Starfish Mentoring Program is supported by nationally recognized research which shows that one-to-one mentoring for 2-4 hours a week results in:
Decreases in experiences of sexual assault and positive beliefs about commercial sex
Increases in educational aspirations, self-efficacy, and employment attitudes
Intangible bonds are created in a shared experience and the mentor’s positive example helps mentees develop healthy future-oriented habits. As a result of mentoring, youth have:
Enrolled in community college and beauty school
Graduated from High School
Entered the workforce and moved into independent living or reintegrated into safe homes
If you are interested in becoming a mentor or would like to request a mentor, please contact Lydia Leanos, Starfish Program Manager at [email protected]
“Ho`ōla Nā Pua, meaning ‘New Life for Our Children,’ was founded to shine light onto the dark criminal enterprise of sex trafficking, placing the health of Hawaii’s youth at the center of our mission and vision for our community.”