Over the last 20 years Gail has taken on her fair share of voluntary work, always with the same goal in mind – helping young people.
“A few years ago I was having coffee with a good friend when she saw an ad to become a mentor here at Madhlo and she said “Gail that is just for you, you should go for it!”
Go for it she did, and after passing her interview and training with flying colours Gail officially became a Mahdlo mentor.
“Being a mentor means so much.” says Gail.
“Giving of your time, being a role model, caring, listening, guiding, inspiring, giving encouragement, being patient, empowering, showing sensitivity, giving support and praise and being reliable.”
At Mahdlo, mentors are matched with a young person with whom they meet up and spend time with, at least an hour a week for 12 months. The benefits to young people’s confidence and social skills can be extraordinary.
“All mentors work differently as each young person is unique as they have their own needs and areas for development. They do what works best for them and their mentee.” says Gail.
“I like to get to know my young person and identify how best I am able to help them. Then I make a list of all the things I could do with them and places we could visit. Simple activities are sometimes the best as I have found out with my current young person.”
Since taking on her current mentee, Gail has travelled far and wide visiting a new place every week and helping to broaden the horizons of her young person.
“I’ve been to cricket games, visited various parks, libraries, taught them to knit, read music, and play the recorder. We’ve done cooking, been to Bleakholt animal sanctuary, tasted delicious ice cream from Grandpa Greens Ice cream Parlour, dressed up in Touchstones museum in Rochdale, visited Bury, Manchester and the Trafford Centre to name just a few!
“When I first met my mentee she was so shy, she rarely goes out and other than going to school or playing on her street she spends most of her time at home with her mum who has agoraphobia.”
“It took her a few weeks to get used to me, but before long she would rush out to meet me and would say, ‘Where are we going today, what are we going to do?’”
“My aim was to take her to as many places as I could, work on her personal skills and help build her confidence.”
After working with her mentee for a few months, in summer last year Gail planned a very special trip to give her young person her first big trip away to the seaside!
“In July we took a day out to Blackpool! She had never been to the seaside before and it was an exceptional day out. We won match of the month and I gave her a few options of where we could go but she so wanted to visit the seaside. We did all the things people normally do when they visit; build sand castles, have fresh donuts, go on the arcades and have fish and chips. It was a wonderful day, the weather was kind to us, and on the way home she fell asleep.”
These were all quite simple and “run of the mill” things that we do and take for granted, but for my young person these along with so many of the things she has encountered with me are new experiences.”
For Gail, one of the best things about being a mentor is the chance for her to give young people the opportunity to take on new experiences and watching them grow. She encourages her mentee to keep a scrapbook of photos of their time together so they will always be able to look back at how far they have come as part of the Mahdlo Mentoring project.
“I’ve been mentoring my mentee for nine months now and she happily talks away to me which is a big step in itself.
“She will tell me about any problems and most importantly she can look around places we visit independently and go to pay for things herself in a shop, her confidence has grown that much. Nine months ago she would not have left my side, so she has come a long way.”
Since starting up in 2014, the mentoring project has already helped over 125 young people from across the borough, and with a growing waiting list, new mentors are much needed. With so many young people looking for support, it’s a cause that Gail feels very strongly about.
“I am so passionate about my role; I love doing what I do. I try to give my young person the best possible opportunities. It can be so rewarding, especially when I can see the positive difference in the young people I help.
“So much credit for the successful running of this scheme should go to Amy and Nadine at Mahdlo. They are fantastic and are always on hand to provide their support and guidance. I am proud to be part of such a wonderful worthwhile project that helps so many young people in a variety of ways.”
With only a couple of months left to go before her time with her current mentee comes to an end, Gail is enjoying their time together and reveling in their newfound confidence. With a successful time mentoring under her belt, how does Gail feel about the difference mentoring can make to the lives of young people?
“There are so many young people who through no fault of their own do not have the support, guidance and role models to help them get on and be effective in life.
“Some young people have difficult issues to overcome and have no one to turn to. That is where a mentor can help.
“Mentoring really does make a difference.”
To be a Mentor, you do not need a youth work background, you just need to be a positive role model and are available to give one to two hours a week on a one to one basis.
Mentors are from all walks of life but share a willingness to help young people through providing guidance and assistance with any difficulties they may be experiencing.
For more info please email our Mentoring Coordinator: Nadine.Hopkinson@mahdloyz.org