Louise volunteered as a Positive Placements mentor because she felt so strongly about wanting to make a difference. She describes the mentoring experience as a ‘rollercoaster ride’ but the challenges have been well worth it.
Louise picks up the story.
“The young person I mentor is a 21 year old single girl who lives in a YMCA hostel. Her family has been pretty destructive to her sense of self worth and esteem, with a background of extreme violence and alcoholism. She identifies as gay and devastatingly has experienced large amounts of homophobic abuse as a result.
“She became homeless aged just 19 following the loss of her job.
“Her bright and determined attitude to life is the reason she is doing so well – I have worked with this young person for almost six months and have seen her grow from a scared, confused and lost young woman into someone who is beginning to learn the art of facing her fears and learning about herself and her place in the world.
“She has recently completed a “return to work’ course which took place five days a week over eight weeks. As a result she has found employment – firstly through work experience which was quickly followed by an offer of a paid position from her employer. This was a direct testament to her easy going and pleasant demeanour and willingness to work. She has also recently made contact with her family. That contact was surprisingly successful – although I hope she now is beginning to feel more aware of her self esteem and her ability to implement the survival skills to handle what is, at best, an incredibly difficult family background.
“I visit her once a week, sometimes more if she needs it. I see my role as just being an ‘interested person’ in her life. Not mother, sister or even friend, just someone who has an interest in her as an individual. And hopefully I show her that she is well worth being around.
“I feel very strongly that a frightening amount of young people have no–one to whom they can turn for advice. Either their family support network is inadequate or they have become estranged. Or maybe they just need a supporter outside the family.
“The power of being that someone to a young person is potent and precious. I am blessed to be in a position to offer that to this young woman. I have learned an awful lot about myself through mentoring her. I do feel proud that in a small way, I have helped to set her on a more positive path. It has not always been easy – and has definitely sometimes been a rollercoaster ride – but I wouldn’t swap the experience for the world. The chance to help shape a young person’s future is an incredible honour and I am grateful to the YMCA for giving me the chance.
“In fact, I have got such a lot out of the experience that I am volunteering to take on another young person alongside my initial mentee.”
We are very grateful to Louise and our other mentors – thank you for making a difference.
Anyone interested in volunteering as a mentor for a young person can find out more here. We are particularly recruiting in Guildford, Horsham and Mid Sussex.
*Name and photo changed to protect the identity of the mentor and mentee