It was 2006, I work in IT Sales and it’s pretty full on and can be self-absorbing at times. I had been thinking about volunteering and doing something different from the day job, looking to contribute back into society – I know that sounds a little bit cheesy. I had helped out with some Downs Syndrome kids when I was in my teens and I really enjoyed it. I thought it would be good to get involved with helping kids who have had a difficult start.
Through a friend who is involved in BLGC – he invited me and my wife to a dinner where we were welcomed by kids on the Mentoring Project at BLGC. During the evening the kids talked about talked about what they got out of it – it was timely and I took it up from there really.
It was very useful. Things that stood out were about keeping a child safe – the responsibilities you have to them and the boundaries of being a mentor, making sure you do not to overstep them. It was interesting to learn about some of the pressures the kids have – that was a real eye–opener. I come from a small town in Worcestershire so I wasn’t exposed to a lot of stuff. It re-set my expectations of mentoring. It has been a real eye-opener for me – a reality check – and I realised that I’d been in my own little bubble. Once you get stuck into mentoring it is fine and you get on with it. It’s a challenge and rewarding and great when you get their trust.
I have a good relationship with my Co-ordinator and that support is ongoing. I have contact with her every week to see how things are going and I can always call her if I need to ask for any advice or guidance.
I’ve mentored a number of kids and I think they all get different things out of it. For me, I think it is largely about having someone to talk to. It’s very clear that I’m not Mum or Dad – I’m a sounding board if you like, that they can talk to. I make it very clear I won’t share any details with anyone unless I think what they’ve told me puts them at risk and then I have to pass that to my Co-ordinator at the club.
I think it is often just about taking them out of a negative situation for an hour. For instance, one lad I mentored I took up Rivington; he’d never been there. Their world is often school and home – and this lad didn’t do anything else. It’s just giving a kid some time to be a kid and some attention. Hopefully you can start to broaden their horizons.
You get a sense of satisfaction that you’ve hopefully helped someone. Sometimes you’re not a 100 percent sure you have for sure – but that’s true of life.
Everyone has got time to give. You can always find an hour or so. I’ve now built mentoring into my routine. So just do it – don’t overthink it – do it and get involved. You can find an hour or so a week and it’s rewarding and an also be good for your professional development.
If you’ve got the time you really should try and make a difference. If it’s not mentoring then try something else in the Club – or fundraising. Just get involved and you’ll meet all sorts of new and different people.