By Harry Mottram. It was 25 years ago that a scheme was founded in the days of New Labour amid concerns about young people being at a ‘risk of offending’.’
Mentoring Plus has come a long way since then with an emphasis on Mentoring as a more positive view of helping a new generation negotiate life with the use of adult mentors.
In that quarter of a century Mentoring Plus has helped more than 1,000 young people with finding ‘a positive path forward, helping them cope with life’s challenges and feel happier and more confident,’ as they put it.
The charity based at the Riverside Youth Hub in Victoria Place tucked down a short lane off London Road is seeking new voluntary mentors as well as help in funding.
In 2005 the funding for the scheme was axed by the Government in the new era of austerity but Bath’s Council stepped in with an annual sum of £65,000. Today that figure hasn’t risen so finding the shortfall of around £35,000 is down to fundraising, applying for grants and donations from the public.
The Mentors have one to one relationships with the young people who need help and they come from all corners of society.
Ruth Keily, the charity’s CEO said that meeting once a month with the volunteer mentors restores her faith in humanity.
“We have 60 mentors and they come from all sorts of backgrounds,” she said, “former social workers and teachers who perhaps have moved into management but miss working with young people. Some are looking to move into social services as a career switch and want to gain experience, while others just want to make a difference.”
Ruth has a background in in marketing in banking and has been with the charity for nine years. Her colleague Becki Fox who is the community manager at the youth hub has previously volunteered in a number of organisations including Bath City Farm and has been with the hub for three years.
Young people often struggling in school, with family difficulties or with mental well being need time and help to stay safe and fulfil their potential with mentors who are fully trained she explained.
Mentors build up a relationship with a young person who can be any age from five to 25 over a year gaining their trust and a shared interest such as dance, sports or animals and the countryside.
Becki said that often the young person may only really unload what concerns them after several months but it’s important that they are listened too as the many testimonials on their website illustrate what a life transforming time being mentored can be.
For instance one girl had been affected by bullying, low self-esteem, social isolation, low mood and significant challenges at home. Following mentoring she changed, became more confident and developed an interest in drama.
Another, this time a young lad came to the scheme depressed and angry but mentored with a strong female role model with a shared interest in music led to him recording his music in the hub’s studio.
The mentors have a budget of £45 a month which can be used for tickets or admission charges – and it doesn’t matter who the mentor is they all get the same – so it keeps activities realistic with as Ruth puts it: so no trips to Disneyland.
For more information about Mentoring Plus – to find out about mentoring and whether it’s for you and also to help with fund raising if possible visit https://mentoringplus.net/or call Becki or Ruth on 01225 429694.
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