A participant in Chance UK’s Waltham Forest mentoring programme shares her experiences
I moved to Walthamstow about five years ago and last year I decided I wanted to try and connect with the area and be part of the community in a more meaningful way.
That’s when I saw the Chance UK advert in local MP Stella Creasy’s newsletter requesting mentors in the area – it seemed serendipitous. After an initial introductory meeting to hear about the programme, I signed up for the training and set off to try and learn to be a mentor.
The training was over three weekends, on Saturdays, at the Chance UK office in Finsbury Park. There was a group of around 15 people trained by two amazingly enthusiastic Chance UK team members. It was really interactive, we received training materials that we worked through over the three weeks, including group work with other potential mentors.
The main focus of the training was on solution-focused approaches and how to provide children with problem-free time. This was strange for me – all of my schooling was around problem-based learning. It was a real eye-opener for me and I learned skills that I have been trying to use in my day-to-day life as well as with the child I mentored.
After the training, it was daunting to be matched with James – suddenly it was going to become a reality and I was going to be hanging out with this kid each week. I am a nerdy scientist with a dry sense of humour and I was nervous that James would be very different from me. But as I read through his introduction of himself I saw that James loved reading, even quoting author Roald Dahl!
James wanted to learn about different cultures and learn new things – this seemed perfect for me: I travel a great deal for work and love learning.
The year with James has passed incredibly quickly. We have done an amazing amount – going on the cable-car over the Thames, horse riding, visits to the London Transport Museum where James drove the tube and a bus (I got extra credit on my Oyster card), ice-skating, and so much more.
The most enjoyable times for me were seeing the utter excitement on James’ face when he experienced new things – it made my day to make his. At other times James would tell me how he felt calmer, sometimes we would talk about him developing his ‘superpower’ to freeze time so that he could stop and think about his actions. Those times were rewarding for me too and I only hope that James will be left with positive memories and some new skills from our year together.
I owe a big thanks to James’ mum and Chance UK, for giving me the chance to take part in such an amazing experience. It wasn’t without its challenges, at the start I wasn’t sure how to manage James’ energy. My Chance UK supervisor gave me hints and tips all the way through and always made me feel motivated and more inspired after our monthly meetings.
These are strange times we are currently living in, and I feel that the best way to make a difference is to concentrate on young people in the community around us. That is exactly what the Chance UK programme does, and I would urge others to get involved like I did.
Chance UK is currently looking for new volunteers for its Waltham Forest mentoring programme. If you’d like to find out more about becoming a mentor:
Call 020 7281 5858 ext 228
The names of the people involved in this article have been changed to protect their identities.