Karolina began volunteering with us in 2021. She supported her last mentee to make friends and widen his social networks.
What do you do for work?
I work for a small children’s rights charity.
What do you get up to when you’re not working or volunteering?
I love the outdoors and I’m a keen hiker, so I spend a lot of my free time carrying a backpack! I also love food, both cooking and eating it, music and reading.
What motivated you to become a volunteer mentor at Hope for the Young?
I reached a point in my working life where I had greater work-life balance and I could dedicate some of my time and energy to do something new. I had been thinking about mentoring for a while at that point and I felt very angry about the inhumane policies of the ‘hostile environment’. I wanted to channel my anger into something positive.
I also felt that I had relevant skills because I had worked in the not-for-profit sector for quite some time, especially with children and young people.
What’s your favourite memory from mentoring?
Together with my mentee we went to this beautiful garden to celebrate his birthday. I had baked a cake and brought some with me. We were sitting on a bench, enjoying the sun, eating the cake and looking at all the impressive plants surrounding us. And then my mentee says: ‘This is really nice’. And I go: ‘The place or the cake?’ And he says: ‘The place. Have you heard of sugar, Karolina?!’ I loved this moment of honesty, especially that it was relatively early into our mentoring relationship.
What’s the best thing about mentoring a young person seeking asylum?
While I think that it’s important to always keep in mind that mentoring is about the young person, what they need, want and wish for, I genuinely believe, based on my own experience, that it’s a mutually beneficial experience. I think we can all learn a lot from one another and I certainly feel I’ve learned a lot from my mentee.
I’ve been forced to notice new things, see things from a different perspective, contrast my thinking with that of someone much younger than me, and more. Of course, I am also incredibly happy to know that I was able to help my mentee access support and social activities that have made a positive difference to his life.
What tips would you give to other volunteer mentors?
- Avoid making assumptions about your mentee and their life, before and after they came to the UK. Keep an open mind, listen and, if and when welcome and appropriate, ask questions to understand them better.
- I think going through the asylum process and being subject to so many restrictions can be very disempowering. Try and offer as much choice and control to your mentee as possible to help them feel they have a say and that their say matters.
- Don’t be discouraged if the goals you have identified change. Focus on your mentee’s priorities and wishes at the particular point in time and trust that they know what they need.
- It takes time to make progress towards the agreed mentoring goals. Don’t rush things, be patient and don’t underestimate the importance of simply being there for your mentee.
We’d like to say a big thank you to Karolina for dedicating her time to mentor a young person seeking asylum.
If you’d like to become a volunteer mentor, click the button below to find out more and apply!