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Spotlight: Sanjay Bhaskar, UW MATES
Meet Sanjay Bhaskar, a 4B Psychology and Social Development Studies student, coordinator for UW MATES (Mentor Assistance Through Education and Support), and Feds Coordinator Award recipient for the fall 2018 term.
One of Feds' student-run services, MATES is a counselling-based, one-to-one peer support service. Student volunteers receive training from UW Counselling Services and are equipped with resources, directions, coping mechanisms, and more.
As MATES Coordinator, Bhaskar oversees the hiring and training of all MATES. Students interested in getting involved will be fully trained for their role.
“You don't need to be a psychology major and you don’t need prior training," he said. "We’re peer support, not a clinical service, and all of the training you’ll need to be a good MATE will be provided to you. All we ask is that you bring an open mind and dedicated, reliable attitude."
Bhaskar joined MATES initially as a peer support provider, and while he enjoyed this role and chatting with students during their times of need, he found himself looking forward to internal meetings with his fellow MATES.
“During our team debrief meetings, I realized that I didn’t feel connected to a lot of the other volunteers, since the nature of MATES is one-on-one. I wanted more moments that felt like the support and community in our debrief meetings," Bhaskar said. "I saw how passionate our volunteers were about their roles, and I knew that at times those in helping roles don’t always seek support for themselves. I wanted the opportunity to support our volunteers and ensure they they were at their best, not only because they of course deserve that support, but also because we can’t provide a high-level of support to others if we’re not well supported ourselves."
When Bhaskar began as Coordinator, he knew that MATES had long been discussing how to better serve students who seek help. While ideas of expanding hours and running a service independent from UW Counselling Services have floated around before, Bhaskar decided to take on this daunting expansion and make it a reality.
“I’m really proud of what MATES provides to students, and I wanted to take on more responsibility within the service," he said. “I had been engaging in extensive conversations with Counselling Services over the past three terms to come to an agreement about how MATES could operate more independently. I met with several groups around campus such as academic faculties and UW Residences to advocate for new office spaces for MATES. As a result, we will have six offices next term and will run in total among those offices from 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday to Friday."
This drive to provide not only support to students, but to support to the students who are providing support as MATES, lead to Bhaskar’s ambitious vision for MATES as a coordinator.
As for students who may be struggling or are thinking of coming to see a MATE, Bhaskar urges anyone who feels like they might “feel even 1% better” after speaking to someone to make an appointment with MATES.
“We’re not here to tell you what to do. We’ll find you the support most appropriate for you on or off campus and will just listen to what you have to say," he said. "Don’t tell yourself that you're not ‘bad enough yet.’”
To learn more about getting involved with UW MATES or to book an appointment, visit their web page.