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Heather’s story

Started volunteering - 2007

Number of programmes - 9

Area of expertise - Engineering

I must have started mentoring for Brightside in 2007 or 2008 because I remember my son being very little and he’s just turned 16.

Online mentoring was quite different back then. I don’t remember too much about it but I do still have the training certificate somewhere. You could only do it on a desktop computer because phones weren’t advanced enough. I also remember everything being very blue.

I’ve continued mentoring with Brightside for so long because I just love it! I have also done my very best to encourage others to mentor over the years, paying forwards the support I've received at some in my life.

I have this sense that it’s the right thing to do. It’s so flexible; I moved to Texas for two years and I could mentor out there just the same. Most mentoring is face-to-face and time consuming, but this you can do from anywhere, whether that’s on your commute or on your sofa. But more importantly, young people can do it whenever they like. They’ve got the choice whether to interact and when and where they want to do it.

It’s also so much fun. I’ve learned loads over the years. I’m sure
I get as much from them as they get from me. I always learn at
least one new thing with each mentee.

 

Two in particular stand out for me. One didn’t interact at all but I kept trying, sending information and checking in. At the end of the project I messaged to say I’m sorry they hadn’t managed to interact and I hoped they’d found something I’d sent useful. They replied to say I’d changed their life and that the information had been fantastic. They just weren’t brave enough to respond.

That always keeps me going when I get unresponsive mentees: the thought that they’re reading.

Another young man told me he didn’t have any skills. He was from inner city Manchester (where all my good stories are from!) and told me in conversation that he went and put the football goals out for the teams on a Sunday. No-one asked him to do it, but he saw a need and did it anyway. I saw it as my role to draw these things out of him to show him the skills he already had.

I feel excited to be a part of changing young people’s lives.
I like to think I’ve given them hope for the future.

 

The only down side to online mentoring with Brightside is that I can’t find out how they’ve got on in life because you can’t swap contact details for safeguarding reasons. I’d love to know how they’re all doing now!

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