A MALE mentoring scheme in Monmouthshire that supports boys who see and experience domestic abuse is being put forward for more funding after a successful first two years.

Run by the county's arm of Women's Aid, the project matches male volunteer mentors with boys aged five-11, to try to provide vulnerable youngsters with the positive male role models they have often never had in their lives. It also runs a group for 11-18 year-olds.

Mentors are paired with the younger boys on a one-to-one basis over a year. Project co-ordinator Rebecca Stone said the aim is to take the boys out of an often difficult home environment to enable them to experience life outside that situation.

"It can be things like learning to swim, playing football, but they can be things some of these boys have never done," she said.

"The changes in the children can be amazing. Some of them have lived with these domestic situations from birth or through a relationship their mother has embarked on."

The project relies on volunteers to become male mentors for a few hours a week. Neil Brookes, who lives in Newport, got involved after spotting the project through a story in the Argus a couple of years ago.

"One of the volunteers featured was a former soldier. I'm ex-Army as well and thought I had something to offer," said 44-year-old Mr Brookes.

"You can have all these grand ideas of going to really nice places, you want to treat them because they've been through domestic abuse. But it's about simple things really, walking the dog, skimming stones, interacting with them and in a way, going back to basics."

Mr Brookes has worked with a boy who he says was shy and withdrawn but has now grown in confidence.

"It is about being a role model and friend, and it is very rewarding, a fantastic experience," he said.

CURRENT funding for the male mentoring scheme runs until February and Monmouthshire Women's Aid has submitted a bid to Children In Need to help it continue.

The group for 11-18 year-old boys involves ten weeks of workshops in which the boys take part in activities overseen by a volunteer male mentor and the project co-ordinator, while being encouraged to talk about domestic abuse, its effects, and how to deal with it.

Rebecca Stone said: "The project has helped change boys' lives and it has benefits for others. It can be huge in those families too."

Many of the boys get involved in the project through their mothers' contact with Women's Aid, with some referrals coming through schools, health visitors and social services.

* For more information, or to volunteer, telephone 01873 859011.