As we celebrate National Mentoring Day, we’re taking the chance to reflect on our own Mentoring Programme and to shine a light on the impact that it has on the young people who take part.
The YAT Mentoring Programme is a year-long opportunity available to young people who have completed the Adventure Programme. It’s designed to offer 1:1 bespoke support to a young person within their local community. Young people who would benefit are selected by their Programme Managers in the final year of their Adventure Programme whilst they’re in Year 9, age 13-14yrs. Our Mentoring Managers spend a great deal of time getting to know the selected young people, focusing on their interests, personalities, what their ideal mentor would be like and how they would like a mentor to support them. In the autumn, as they begin their GCSE years at the start of Year 10, the selected young people are carefully matched with a volunteer mentor. During their year together they meet fortnightly for 2 hours, enjoying various activities, talking through any difficulties they may be facing, and working together on goals the young person has set themself. These goals vary but often include themes such as continuing to increase their confidence, building independence skills, expanding their experiences and having fun away from the stresses in their daily lives.
Aimee’s* 4 year long journey with the Youth Adventure Trust recently came to an end. She was keen to share her story about how both the Adventure and Mentoring Programmes have supported her and had a significant impact on her life.
When the Youth Adventure Trust offered me a place on their programme, to say I was hesitant would be an understatement. I already had low confidence levels from the difficulties of starting secondary school and this seemed way out of my comfort zone. However, I decided that this was a once in a lifetime experience and opportunity to grow and abandon my nerves and anxieties that I had struggled with throughout Year 7, so I accepted. I felt welcomed and understood as well as comforted by adults I had never met but came to trust and confide in over the years which helped me overcome some challenging activities. They listened to any problems I had outside of the programme and guided me through a difficult time.
When I think back to my time on the Youth Adventure Trust programme, I always remember the friends I made along the way and how we all grew together, especially in Forest Camp. I had so much fun with other students i had only met only a few times prior to the trip and they helped me forget that we were literally sleeping in the woods under tarps and found the fun in this unique experience. A few years ago I couldn’t think of anything worse, but now I feel accomplished and proud of how far I’ve come and the things I have done. I feel honoured I was chosen to take part in the expeditions, adventures, activities and challenges that were given to me and will never forget how grateful I am, as well as amazed at what I have achieved.
After many camps and Pathway Days with my friends I was offered the chance to take part in one to one activities with a Volunteer Mentor. In our sessions together I discovered new things within my community to keep the ‘branching out to new things’ ball rolling. My mentor and I met on Tuesdays every two weeks and tried a wide range of activities from sport classes, pot throwing and then axe throwing! I got to find things to do together that I had never done before and it was a great relief amongst the GCSE exam period. Although in the first few weeks I was meeting with a stranger, we instantly formed a bond and I felt comfortable with completing the wacky array of activities with her. It was a way to further boost and develop my confidence in my own community and to make the effort to take advantage of the opportunities on my doorstep.
I have come a long way since my anxious Year 7 self and the journey has sometimes been difficult but has, in truth, been insanely rewarding. I truly believe the Youth Adventure Trust was a life-changing experience for myself and I can assure you that the hundreds of children who have completed it will agree. I can’t imagine what life would be like without taking on the YAT Adventure and Mentoring programmes, and I’m lucky I took actions to change it and love the life I live now. I am deeply grateful and deeply appreciate all the support over the years. I want to thank the Youth Adventure Trust team for an unforgettable few years and all they have done for me; they’ve taught me to try new things and seize new opportunities and I encourage others to do so too if offered an experience like mine.
Stories like Aimee’s wouldn’t be possible without the time and dedication given by our wonderful volunteers. On National Mentoring Day, we’d like to give an extra special shout out to the volunteers who dedicate so much of their time and energy providing much needed 1:1 support to the young people on our Mentoring Programme.
If you’d like to find out more about volunteering and how you can inspire young lives, click here