A blog post by Gemma Madle & Kerry Coombs from WAM Youth
We’ve just held the launch of our mentoring programme and as we’re really excited to be finally getting going wanted to share some of our enthusiasm with you all and a little bit about how we went about it.
Back in Nov 2012 at Youthwork the Conference we sensed God confirming to us that we needed to develop some 1:1 mentoring type work in order to reach and serve those young people on the edge of our community that we weren’t reaching through the church youth work. But with little idea how to go about initiating this we were greatly encouraged by Patrick Regan saying that XLP would soon be launching a nationwide mentoring programme to do exactly that!
We eagerly awaited the launch of XLM and in the Spring of 2013 managed to persuade a few other people to set up a charity through which we would run our mentoring project. Living in a small rural community we felt there was an ideal opportunity to engage those both within and outside of the church in delivering the mentoring and therefore the chance to reconnect young people with the wider community.
We were both trained in July and had already been trying to identify potential mentors from those we knew through various networks in our town. We met with the head of our local secondary school to explain what we were doing and to understand the need from the school’s perspective. This also helped us to work out the practicalities of how/where the mentoring could take place as the school agreed to work with us in referring students and also that it would be possible for meetings to occur during school time if needed. We also asked if we could visit the school regularly on a Friday lunchtime as detached youth workers, this has helped build relationships and contact with the young people so that when they are now offered the chance to take part in the programme there is an existing level of trust in us as providers. We currently have 6 young people waiting for mentors with another 8-10 identified as in need by the school, by us or by the young people themselves
In August we negotiated a free stand at our local town country show which we used to promote the project and build a mailing list of potential mentors/interested supporters. We started a monthly mailing list with the aim of running an information/launch evening in November. We managed to recruit 2 mentors directly from contacts made at this show and subsequently received a donation of £750 towards the project from the show organisers.
The launch took place a couple of weeks ago and we had approximately 20 people from different pockets of the community attend. We borrowed a room in a local pub, provided some nibbles and ran through a short presentation using some of the XLM videos and slides, all adapted to be relevant to our locality. We are both pretty passionate about the need for this programme and the importance of the whole community taking responsibility for engaging with young people and 5 people applied to be mentors as a result of the launch with others offering financial support and all being very supportive and encouraging about what we were doing. So we’re interviewing another mentor tomorrow, currently training two with plans to run another set of training sessions in January for the 5 new mentors (should they get through the application/DBS process) and another information evening in Feb/Mar. We’re also off to a funding workshop this week organised by a local voluntary organisation support agency.
So the key things we’ve learnt so far:
- Make connections with the young people in your local school not just the head or pastoral worker. It’s the young people ultimately who decide to engage or not with the mentoring and if they are already aware of you or your organisation and that experience has been positive then it’s easier!
- Use all the networks you have to recruit mentors, it takes all sorts to connect with all sorts of young people
- Get a clear process in place for your mentor recruitment process, it’s important for safeguarding the young people you’ll be working with as well as sending a professional message to mentors, mentees and referring agencies and especially impresses potential funders!
- Believe in what you’re doing, passion is infectious and passion combined with professionalism is even better!
- Present the project to parents in a very positive light rather than as an intervention for their troubled child, it sounds obvious but easily forgotten when we’re so focused on the needs of the young person.
- Don’t be afraid to turn potential mentors down if you feel they aren’t suitable to mentoring, think about what else you could use their skills for or consider “trying out” mentors by getting them to volunteer in other youth projects or groups you might be involved with for a bit first.
- Network with your local PCSO, Child Exploitation Unit, Youth Support Services, GP surgeries, Voluntary Organisation Support Agencies, other youth services etc. They may provide referrals, training support, funding information or even mentors.
- Use the XLM resources! Don’t reinvent the wheel, the lovely people at XLM have done all the hard work and don’t mind you changing the logos for your own so just do it!