Robin, one of Chance UK’s youth workers, reflects on those magic magic of mentoring:
Having grown up in inner city London, I definitely relate to a lot of the issues that many of the children I mentor are going through. At the moment I’m working with about ten children, aged between six and twelve years old. One thing I realised very early on is that although they may be experiencing similar things such as low self-esteem or anxiety, they are all individuals and what works with one child may not work with another. It’s about building a rapport with that child based on what they like doing. You can’t push them to open up before they are ready – it’s all led by them. The majority of the time they start out a bit unsure but once they are used to you, they really look forward to the sessions.
Most of the time I will try and meet them away from home and we will do an activity that they enjoy. It really helps them relax and I’ll often use things they are interested in to help them think differently and build their resilience. For example, one ten year old boy was passionate about football so we used some of the things you do in football to help him think about how to cope with his emotions in certain situations. He really got it and even brought it up in further sessions so I knew it had really resonated for him.
I think the pandemic has definitely had an impact on the children that we see at Chance UK – there are a lot of issues related to mental health and self-confidence and what they saw and heard during lockdown, especially when it came to what their parents were going through too. My job is to support them to feel comfortable and when they are ready to open up, be there to talk things through. That moment when a child starts to become more comfortable and talks to me is always brilliant. It’s why I joined Chance UK because I wanted to use my skills to support children and help them see their potential. So often, the children we see will not feel very positive about themselves and I always pay attention to the things they are good at and make sure they know that.
I would love to see youth work taken more seriously and I think we need more youth workers in our communities, as our work really does make a difference. The fact that you are independent, and not part of a child’s school or home life makes a real difference, and I think it helps children open up in a way they wouldn’t with a teacher or a parent.