Recently we marked our 30th anniversary with a celebratory Adventure Dinner, a special evening attended by many of our supporters from across the years. Without doubt the highlight for all was the privilege of hearing Faith, a young person who has completed our Youth Adventure Programme and Mentoring Scheme, speak so impressively about her time with us, and the impact of these experiences. Watching her speak with such confidence to an audience of hundreds, in an unfamiliar and intimidating environment, it would be easy to forget the Faith we met all those years ago.
Back in 2018 Faith was referred to the Youth Adventure Trust because she had found the transition from primary to secondary school difficult; she had low self-esteem and confidence and often got anxious away from home. Faith really struggled on the programme and needed a lot of encouragement, becoming very homesick on her residential camps, but always engaging as much as she could. Her Programme Manager worked hard to support Faith on and off the programme, but recognised that the large group setting of the camps was proving a barrier to Faith getting the maximum benefit. Fortunately we also have a Mentoring Scheme that provides one to one support, and we were able to respond to Faith’s needs and flex our offer, so she could work with a mentor in a way more suited to her needs at that time.
Faith struggled with anxiety and during the pandemic this had increased. She needed support to build her confidence and resilience, and to become more independent away from home, especially around busy and crowded places where she felt completely overwhelmed.
In the summer of 2020, our Mentoring Manager met with Faith and her parents to find out more about the challenges she faced, and her hopes for mentoring. Faith shared that she would like a mentor to help her to talk to people she didn’t know and to regain the confidence that she once had, which had been lost due to bullying. More than anything, she wanted the confidence to smile again.
In the autumn, Faith was matched with Pauline. Pauline is laid back and calm, and has very similar interests to Faith. They forged a strong relationship from the outset, and Faith really appreciated having someone to talk to who didn’t judge anything she said.
‘She just lets me talk it out instead of weaving away from the conversation. It’s good talking to someone with an outside perspective so you’re not just talking to the people who know you best and will only give you the answer that they know you want to hear. I’m quite chatty but sometimes I do go a bit quiet so it’s great that Pauline will help start the conversation if I go a bit quiet because I’m worried about saying the wrong thing – she takes away the awkwardness’.
In their fortnightly sessions, they chose to do a variety of activities such as treasure hunts, walks, pottery painting and meals out. During their time together Pauline enabled Faith to share her worries and build her confidence with everyday activities which had been a barrier for her. Two of Faith’s highlights were experiencing going out for a meal and ordering for herself, and going to see a dance show at the theatre. It became clear that Faith’s confidence was increasing and she had begun to notice this in all areas of her life. We asked Faith what she was most proud of herself for;
“Probably to do with school – I’ve started putting my hand up and started to give answers, because I would never, ever do that before. Even though I’m 100% it’s the right answer, the chance of it not being not the right answer is probably 0%, but I would never take the chance. One of my weakest lessons is Physics and I’ve had a new Physics teacher and I don’t like meeting new people so that’s really nerve wracking. But that lesson, I’ve put my hand up each time – I feel like that is definitely because I’ve ordered food with Pauline. That’s a really big thing because I don’t think I’ve ever in school put up my hand, not in primary school, so doing it in Year 10 now, it’s worth that I’ve finally done it – I feel like I can put my hand up more and I can give the right answers and the wrong answers.”
A visit to the theatre to watch a dance show was also a special experience for Faith. Alongside challenging Faith’s fears of being in a busy space with people she didn’t know, the performance also resonated with her;
“I used to be really, really confident. In primary school, something happened like bullying and things and I just stopped dancing. That’s why I liked that dance show last night because the woman had loads of things happening to her and she just stopped dancing – and that’s what I did for seven years. Then I got back to dance and I’ve talked to Pauline and started dance and it’s like I’m the same person I was when I was younger, I just didn’t show it.”
Faith used this new-found confidence to challenge herself outside of her sessions. She successfully applied to be Deputy Head Girl at her school and also conquered her fear of getting on a bus. As Faith lives in a different town to her school and friends, this made a huge difference and enabled her to meet with friends and travel to school independently.
In their final few months of mentoring sessions, Faith expressed a wish to “do anything that can gain my confidence a lot more. The really basic things are the things I find the hardest, the day-to- day things make me so nervous. I’ve definitely gained more confidence but I just want to carry on doing things, whether it’s going out for meals, going to shows or doing activities, just gaining the confidence – the big bits, the little bits.”
In her final review meeting at the end of their mentoring year together, Faith reflected and shared that “this has been a really good experience; learning new things, doing new things, talking – it’s shown me this is how I can be and to hold on to it. Having one on one time with Pauline has really…it hasn’t fixed how I am, it’s got me to the person I always have been, it’s just been covered up for a really, really long time”
Faith’s parents were also keen to voice the impact of Faith’s sessions with Pauline;
“Once that little lightbulb went off in her head ‘I can talk to Pauline’ that was it. She was really good at not advising but saying ‘maybe you should try this’..or ‘have you tried that?’
It was just one of those situations where we all needed a fresh pair of eyes on the situation because we’d got in a rut. I knew it was going to be good but I never believed that this was going to be such a positive. It’s 100% something I would say to somebody ‘you really need to try this.’”
At the Adventure Dinner, we all watched in admiration as Faith stood confidently, spoke clearly and articulately, and shared her very personal story. She left no doubt that the support and input from the Youth Adventure Trust has been instrumental in her growth. The long term nature of the programme and the care invested by YAT’s staff and volunteers alike, have set Faith up for a bright and positive future, where she can fulfil her potential. We are so proud of you Faith, and can’t wait to see where the future takes you!