One of our Youth Workers shares the story of their mentee Leah*, and the incredible progress they made together.
When I first started mentoring Leah*, it was clear she was very intuitive and wise for her age. Leah was also dealing with a lot of trauma – her grandfather her died and she was separated from her parents and living with her grandmother. Leah was very close to her grandfather and his death has had a lasting effect on her; she had angry outbursts and her school were very concerned about her well-being and felt she needed support with her grief. Leah was also due to move to secondary school and the school wanted her to feel ready for that.
I noticed fairly early on that Leah tried not to show how she was feeling and often masked negative emotions with humour. It was hard to get her to engage with distressing emotions because she struggled to process them.
One thing that Leah loved doing was art and so many of our sessions centred around arts and crafts. Leah felt more comfortable expressing herself when we were doing an activity because it took away the pressure of having to speak directly to me about her feelings. While we played cards, she would casually speak about how she felt while concentrating on the game. Another time, we got small glass bottles and wrote messages about something bothering or distressing us. We didn’t have to share it but just put it in the bottle. At first, she struggled with what to write, but after a while, she grew more comfortable with the idea and wrote how she felt.
Over time, Leah became more comfortable with new environments and people. While she had a fear of public speaking or speaking in new environments, she started to challenge herself to interact with those around her.
A big moment for Leah was when she attended one of our group workshops. While I could tell at the beginning that Leah wanted to leave, with encouragement and reassurance from me that she was safe and l would stay with her, she managed to stay. Initially, she did not speak. She listened attentively but then started writing down her ideas and sticking them on the board. This was a really big step for Leah. Towards the end of the session, she took part in a group activity where they had to outline all the qualities a super girl could have or qualities that they treasured. Leah took part in this and wrote her ideas and I was incredibly proud of her. It was a real sign of growth that she could attend a group session and share her ideas.
*Names and images have been changed