We speak to Anna Collins, one of our amazing Volunteer Mentors, about her experience supporting a young person.
Hi, what’s your name and what do you do as a volunteer at BLGC?
My name is Anna and I am a Volunteer Mentor with BLGC, and I have been matched with my Mentee for about 9 months.
How did you get involved in volunteering with Bolton Lads & Girls Club?
We got an email at work from someone who had heard about the role and she forwarded it around the team. We are lucky that our work has an initiative where we can use so many hours a week for volunteering. I had always wanted to volunteer but I had never had the time as I work two jobs, so this initiative gave me the opportunity to do something I’ve always wanted to do. I have always enjoyed working with young people and so it just seemed the perfect fit for me.
What is a normal day volunteering like for you?
I usually pick my Mentee up from School. I will try and plan something every so often (or if the weather is good!) but a lot of the time we end up at Costa and just having a bit of a natter. My Mentee has gone through quite a lot recently and she tends to open up over a brownie and hot chocolate!
What do you enjoy most about volunteering?
For me its been the little things. It’s been great to see how over the months we have bonded (we actually bonded over our love of gravy!) and she has opened up more and just getting to know her. She is an incredible young girl, really brave and it is a pleasure to see her grow and how she faces the challenges she comes up against. She will confide in me, even if it is just a small thing, but knowing she feels she can trust me is a really nice feeling. My favourite moment we’ve had was when we went to Total Wipeout together and it was real bonding moment for us as we were both terrible, so we spent most of the afternoon in a ball pool laughing.
What have you found most challenging?
I thought it would be getting her to engage with me, but that has not been an issue at all. For me it’s been a purely practical challenge of thinking of something to do which would interest a teenager as she’s a little bit older than my own children. We can only meet up after school, so it rules some things out like Museums which close at 4pm. We do end up in Costa most weeks, but that gives us an opportunity to talk. I’m conscious of not making the activity too much of ‘a thing’ as that can add pressure and I want it to be more about her having a space to talk rather than an activity getting in the way of that.
What kind of support do you get from Bolton Lads & Girls Club?
The support I have had has been incredible. My Coordinator is always there for me and we meet up regularly. Whenever I have had concerns or if there is something I need to talk through, she is always there at the end of the phone straight away. It is nice to know I don’t have to carry any concerns by myself or worry about it as I have instant support there when I need it.
What do you think your Mentee has got out of having a Mentor?
Her circumstances have probably been a bit different from other young people as she has had a lot of changes in her home life recently, her journey hasn’t been a straight line, it has been very up and down. But she shows up every time and we talk. The first few months it was mainly me asking questions and leading the conversation, but she now asks me questions, or she will remember something I mentioned a few weeks back and ask about it. It’s also been great to see how she has started to become more self-aware as well. She will come to realisations herself that maybe the path she has taken wasn’t the best choice and we talk through what to do next time. With mentoring it is small changes that are important, and I have learnt to appreciate that. It’s just the simplicity of being a constant in her life and someone to talk to. When everything else around her is changing, I can be that constant for her. Apart from my hair colour that is, she never knows what that is going to be!
What have you got out of Mentoring?
You get a great sense of fulfillment. You might say something, a small bit of wisdom, that she takes away with her and the next week she will tell me that she has acted on my advice and that is an amazing feeling to know that I have made a small difference in her life. It’s also made me more confident, especially engaging with young people.
Would you recommend volunteering to other people?
I would absolutely recommend mentoring to anyone considering it. It is a great way of volunteering as it is a 1:1 relationship so you get to build a strong bond and it’s not as intimidating as if there was a big group of people! It’s not very time consuming, it’s only an hour once a fortnight. I have really enjoyed it and I get a lot out of seeing my Mentee. I would recommend it to anyone who was thinking about volunteering.
Thank you, Anna, it has been great to hear about your experience as a Volunteer Mentor!