Imagine the pleasure of helping to change a child’s life over a shorter time, in a very special, positive way.
That’s the kind of reward experienced by volunteer mentors at Bath-based charity Mentoring Plus, who are currently looking for new mentors to sign up for their training programme in January next year.
Volunteer mentors with Mentoring Plus spend a couple of hours each week with kids who are struggling at school. And the contribution of volunteer mentors has been the magic transforming the lives of children locally since Mentoring Plus started in 1998.
Mentors don’t need previous experience or qualifications, although some knowledge of this age group as a parent or professional can help them feel more confident. They have to be over 18, have a lifestyle which allows them to commit to weekly sessions, and be able to travel to meet their mentee ideally in their own car (travel expenses are repaid). Initial training is thorough and refreshed through the year, with each mentor assigned their own practitioner professional to support them.
Mentoring sessions always start with the child’s own interests, and are playful and active rather than just sitting and talking. A mentor might take a lead from a child’s love of football skills, exploring in a forest school area, finding new places to go in the area, cooking or making art together – costs of materials are covered by Mentoring Plus. As mentee and mentor spend time doing something interesting, conversations start to flow, whether about coping with difficulties or pursuing future dreams. Mentors are trained to listen, play back and gently encourage children to explore their own solutions, but the priority is enjoyable time with a positive role model, building confidence and self-esteem.
One such mentor is Simon Wright. He’d always wanted to work with young people but wasn’t sure how. Then he found Mentoring Plus. Having applied to mentor, he was checked and given training, which he says was, “Very professional and valuable for me. I learnt from volunteer mentors what the process was like, and thought about aspects of mentoring I wouldn’t otherwise have known.”
Simon’s enthusiasm to work with primary age children is obvious. “They have a joy, innocence and imagination I really like,” he says. However, as a prospective mentor, he had doubts. “I wondered ‘Can I actually do this? Will the child like me?’”
Finally, however, he found being a volunteer mentor both positive and fulfilling. “I’ll never forget Jake’s beaming face when he showed a picture to his class that we’d created together. Before mentoring, I’d thought of myself as a selfish person. It’s been nice to put someone else first for a change. In fact, that’s been a real shift for the better for me in my own life.”
At the end of his six months as a primary mentor, Simon wanted to continue his work with children. So he was delighted to use his volunteering experience to get paid work helping primary kids excluded from school. “I’ve gained everything I wanted from being a volunteer mentor,” says Simon, “And I’d recommend it to absolutely anyone.”
If you’d like to find out more about being a volunteer mentor and join the next training/selection process in January 2017, call 01225 429694 or visit www.mentoringplus.net. Mentoring Plus is especially keen to recruit working age, male volunteer mentors for young boys that it helps. Become a mentor. Change a life.