This is me and my mentee Sarah!
If there’s one thing 2020 has taught me, it’s that you can find strength and resilience in the most unexpected places, at the most expected times. My mentoring sessions with my mentee are the perfect example of this. Throughout this crazy past year where we’ve seen normal life turned upside down, I’ve watched my mentee demonstrate such resilience I wouldn’t have thought possible in someone her age. Over the course of our time together I’ve seen her grow in self-confidence and determination, developing a more positive outlook on life despite everything going on around her. For me too, our mentoring sessions have been a light in what has sometimes recently been quite a dark world – they’ve given me something really meaningful to focus on, and hope for the future. In this way, mentoring has benefitted us both beyond what I could ever have anticipated, and helped us both to be resilient when it’s been most needed.
For young people, it’s fair to say it’s been a pretty tough time recently. For ten year olds, like my mentee, it’s been exceptionally hard, as they approach the end of primary school and the transition to secondary school, with even more uncertainty than ever. At the start of our mentoring we wrote a bucket-list of activities we wanted to do together. Unfortunately with the restrictions and lockdowns, we were only allowed to have phone sessions, or go on local walks. Despite these limitations, my mentee has always been imaginative and enthusiastic about our sessions. We’ve thought up creative games and challenges to do together over the phone, which we’ve carried over into our in-person sessions – most of them made up by her, with the rules often bending in her favour!
Our first face-to-face session after lockdown lifted made me realise just how resilient she had been. She was keen to tell me about all the things she had come up with to help her when she felt stressed or overwhelmed. Some we had spoken about on the phone, like making up stories and arts and crafts, but others – like doodling – she had thought up herself and wanted to show me as she thought it could help me too. Trying to turn negative things into positive opportunities is something we’ve discussed a lot in our sessions, and she was proud that she had an example to show me that she had made up. We spent the majority of that session sat in the park doodling in our scrapbook – both feeling much better because of it. Since then, we always play some sort of make-believe game in our sessions, often involving us making up a story with multiple characters which we write down in our scrapbook. The stories are a fun distraction, and my mentee does the impersonations and acts out every character. Her impersonation of Boris Johnson in particular is uncanny and has had me in hysterics.
With every session I’ve seen my mentee grow, and she shows me how resilience can take many forms – from something small, like doodling or writing stories, to something bigger, like her increasingly optimistic outlook. For me, mentoring has helped me appreciate the importance of little things, and how powerful a tool creativity can be in difficult times. Her imagination constantly inspires me, often makes me laugh so much I cry, and helps me put things in perspective when things have seemed overwhelming. In this way, our mentoring sessions have made us both more resilient, and been a lot of fun too along the way.