We speak to Dave Quilliam, one of our amazing Volunteer Mentors, about his experience supporting two young people over the years.

How did you first hear about volunteering?

I saw an advert in the Here 4 You magazine, made an appointment and here I am! I’m retired so I have a bit of spare time and I like helping people, so it just seemed like something worthwhile doing. This is my second match with a young person on mentoring now!

What is a normal volunteering session like for you?

Me and my previous mentee used to use the club quite a lot, especially over the winter months, using the mentoring room and the kitchen as he really enjoys cooking. In the summer months we would go for a lot of walks. My new mentee isn’t as keen on walking, but we have a programme to get him getting out more and it is working slowly! We have also been on two of the group activities which were great, one at Smithills Farm and one gorge walking. It was really enjoyable for the both of us.

What have you enjoyed most?

For me, it’s the small things. As an example, the young person I am matched told me he didn’t know how to tie his shoelaces and he is about to go to Secondary School! We spent last week learning and practising tying his shoelaces with lots of encouragement and praise. The next day I got a message from his mum saying that he had gone home and had kept practising and can do it by himself now. It was just a small thing for me, but for him it was a huge step. It may be a small thing, but it’s given him a bit of self-belief and confidence. It just shows the difference you can make. It’s great when you can see that they have enjoyed their time with you and you can tell they are looking forward to your next meeting. The best activity we have done together was the gorge walking activity. My young person isn’t very outgoing, so it was a big thing for him to take on. He slipped in quite early on and got really wet, but he soldiered on and it was great to see what he achieved.

What have you found most challenging?

The young man I’m matched with at the moment has really low confidence and struggles to communicate, so it has been more of a challenge to build a relationship. It’s still early days but we made a small breakthrough this week, so I felt really pleased that we have started to get through and build that relationship.

What has been your favourite moment?

A few weeks ago, we were at the group activity at Smithill’s Farm on a tractor ride and my young person turned to me and said “Dave, you are the best mentor there is”, that meant such a lot to me. With my previous match, I went to pick up him up from his house for one of our meetings and his younger brother came to the door and said, “When I’m older I want a mentor like you”. That showed that his brother had been saying positive things to him about our time together. They were really nice moments that I will treasure.

What support do you get from BLGC?

I get 101% support, its great. Every other week my coordinator, Amy, will ring me to have a quick chat and check how everything is going. We also have face to face meetings every 4 months or so to go through it all in more detail. In-between I know I can always message Amy and she will get back to me within the hour. Whenever I come to the Club I always feel very welcome and I get involved in other opportunities too such as helping out on day trips, attending social events and contributing to the volunteer forum. I like to give back to the Club because of all the support I get, but I also get something back too, whether it is some new ideas of what to do from other Mentors or a free pasty at the Forum!

What do you think the young people you have mentored gets out of it?

My previous mentee was ‘the father figure’ of the house at 11 and so he just needed the opportunity and space to have fun during our times together. When he first came to mentoring he was asked what he wanted from it and he said “have fun and splash in puddles” so that’s what we did! I’m not sure with the new young person as it’s still early days, but I can see he is very shy and we are working on getting him out and about.

What have you got out of Mentoring?

It is a very rewarding role, especially when you see them achieve something, or they tell you they have enjoyed themselves or you see the smile on their face. It was such a nice experience. I had a few months off after my last match ended but I really started to miss it so I came back for a second match!

Would you recommend volunteering?

I would most definitely recommend it. You have to be committed to give time to a young person, but it’s only an hour or two a fortnight, it’s not a lot of time and it is a great experience.

Thank you Dave, it has been great to hear about your experience as a Volunteer Mentor!