Why mentor? Why not? – A Mentoring Volunteer’s experience

I have been a Mentoring Volunteer with Youth Adventure Trust since the Mentoring Scheme started in 2018, and I had no idea then what an impact being a mentor would have – both for the young people I have mentored, and me. Up to twenty young people are selected annually to take part in the year-long mentoring programme, which follows when the main programme has ended. After a comprehensive matching process, mentors meet with young people for two hours once a fortnight, for one year. It doesn’t seem like much time, and the year flies by, but the impact can be remarkable. Here are my ‘five reasons to try mentoring’:

Reason 1 – it’s great fun!

Spending time with young people is both great fun, and a real privilege. Through mentoring I have found myself trying and observing many new activities: pottery, dog training, cheer leading, cookery classes and trampolining. I have also been fortunate to introduce young people to activities that I love, such as swimming and paddleboarding. It’s enjoyable getting to know other likeminded mentors, and to hear of others’ mentoring experiences through supervision sessions.

Reason 2 – it pushes boundaries and builds confidence.

Building a trusting relationship, a safe space for the young person to express themselves is fundamental. The time and effort in setting the conditions and building the relationship can make a huge difference. For some young people, just having someone turn up week in week out can be enough to foster a fresh outlook. Others can face their fears, challenge themselves, or learn how to overcome barriers to success. Either way, it’s inspirational. Those moments when a young person turns up to mentoring despite what may be going on in their life; summons the courage to engage with waiting staff in a café; to stroke a dog; to duck their head underwater; or to laugh when things don’t quite go as planned, are priceless. I have also been inspired and motivated to push my own boundaries, trying climbing and horse riding and successfully completing the ‘wobble pole’ on a high ropes course!

Reason 3 – skill development.

To my surprise, mentoring hasn’t only developed skills and broadened the horizons of the young people I have mentored. Each has started the process with their own difficulties and goals, and I have needed to adapt my approach to suit. In the process, I have developed a range of skills including:

  • how to encourage young people to set goals and work towards them.
  • encouraging young people to focus on and develop their strengths.
  • how to support young people when disappointed or frustrated.
  • how to encourage young people to think for themselves and tap into their creativity.
  • how to aid young people to express themselves when they find communication difficult.
  • working with young people to help them to develop strategies which will support them as they seek to overcome difficulties.

Reason 4 – Youth Adventure Trust Support.

Youth Adventure Trust provide comprehensive support to all volunteers, including mentors. This starts with training, covering all aspects of mentoring and what to expect when working with young people. The Mentoring Managers, Becky and Abbie, are always on hand to offer support and advice. All it costs is time. Travel expenses are refunded, and there is a small mentoring budget to support involvement in activities. Youth Adventure Trust value their volunteers, and this is evident in how they train, engage with, and support us. It’s always heart-warming to hear news of how young people are getting on even after they have left the programme.

Reason 5 – it can be life changing.

Mentoring inspires, frustrates, challenges, and motivates. It provides a unique perspective, pushing both mentee and mentor to ask questions of themselves and of one another. For young people it can forge new paths, expand minds, and broaden opportunities. For me, a mentor, it has been life changing, prompting a fresh outlook and a change of career. The magic of mentoring is not to be underestimated!

I challenge you to ask yourself what volunteering as a YAT mentor could do for you….?

If Pam’s mentoring experience has inspired you, visit our website for more information on how you can get involved and support our work with vulnerable young people.