Inspire Me to be a...Volunteer Mentor
In the 'Inspire Me' blog series, we interview people in different careers so you can get an insight into their role, and see if it is something you might like to do too.
This week, we spoke to Joy, a Volunteer Mentor for local charity, The Island
What is your job title?
Volunteer Mentor for The Island, a charity in York.
What does your job involve?
My role involves weekly mentoring sessions on a 1-1 basis with vulnerable children and young people.
Sessions involve us doing a range of activities which allow us to have fun, build a relationship and connect. Activities are decided between the mentor and young person and have included: bowling, cinema, swimming, ceramics painting, climbing, arts and crafts, cookery, art gallery visits, meals out, playing in the park and a LOT of lazer quest!
What made you decide to do this role?
Firstly, I really enjoy working with children and young people - I love what The Island stands for and what it offers children and young people in the local area.
Childhood should be fun and care free, but sadly it isn't always, so to be able to offer a consistent and fun element to a part of a child's week feels really worthwhile.
Mentoring is something I really enjoy, but also a role that I feel prompted to do by my Christian faith.
How did you get into the role? e.g. training, work experience, volunteering...
I applied for the mentoring role via the website. The Island appreciates a wide range of different qualifications and experiences; I didn't need anything specific in order to complete the role.
The Island give you training when you start and following that offer various other learning opportunities so you learn as you go.
What's the best thing about the role?
I absolutely love being a mentor! It's lots of fun - I get to re-live my childhood and do lots of activities that I'm too old for (think soft play and building dens in the park!).
But, more importantly, it is through these fun activities that I see the young people develop and flourish: they are all so different but I have seen positive changes in all of them.
For some it has been improved confidence, for others changes in their social interactions, ability to engage, flexibility and maturity. To be able to build relationships over an extended period of time and see these developments is so rewarding and actually quite rare in the current climate. So often within children and young people's services, input is short lived. This is in massive contrast to the mentoring where I can meet with a young person every week for a year - allowing real connections to form.
What's the worst thing about the role?
Life can be really tough for a lot of the young people who access the Island. Whilst it is great that they are able to share their experiences with me, sometimes it can be hard to hear the stories, and harder to know there are lots of things that you are powerless to change for them.
Ending the mentoring relationship can be difficult too, but it is managed in a graded way to help minimise the impact, e.g. reducing gradually from once a week to once a month.
What advice do you have for someone wanting to do the same role?
I think finding local magazines or resources that tell you about new and exciting activities can be really useful - I discovered a lego party that I went to with my mentee and he loved it!
I would also say give it time to develop the mentoring relationship - it builds gradually as you get to know each other. Use your supervision sessions- it can be really helpful to talk through about your mentee with someone impartial, but someone who knows them too.
Most of all I would say enjoy, and be inspired by the young people's resilience and personalities!
Are there any Brightsparks courses that you think would be useful to someone wanting to do the role?
Yes, I think the Emotional Resilience, Essential Skills for Working With Children & Young People, Managing Challenging Behaviour, Trauma and Attachment and Online Safety courses look great.
The more info we can have about children and young people, the better we understand them and how we can help!