Michelle began volunteering with us in 2021. Since then, she has mentored two young people and has just begun her third mentoring relationship!
What do you do for work?
I work in the communications team at the Parliamentary Digital Service, which supports the House of Commons and House of Lords with all things digital.
What do you get up to when you’re not working or volunteering?
On my days off I’ll be walking the dog, taxi-ing my kids to different things, having a run with a friend or, if I’m feeling lazy, I’ll go to my favourite coffee place for a pastry.
What motivated you to become a volunteer at Hope for the Young?
My very first job was with the Scottish Refugee Council, which gave me some understanding of the challenges that young asylum seekers and refugees could face. That was a long time ago but I’ve always maintained concern and interest.
I think world events and subsequent movement of displaced people in recent years put it at the forefront of my mind again and I wanted to do something that might be useful.
What’s your favourite memory from mentoring?
I’m sharing two, because I can’t pick between them! My first was going to the Hope for the Young summer party – it was lovely to meet other volunteers, mentees and the staff but the best bit for me was watching how sociable, confident and happy my mentee was being there – he just lit up!
My second happy memory was trying some food from an Afghan restaurant with my mentee right at the end of our six months. We had a fab spread of Afghan food and I really enjoyed being with him in a place that connected him to his roots and where he was really at home.
What have you learned from volunteering as a mentor to a young person seeking asylum?
I’ve learned that there’s much to be gained on both sides of the relationship. I was inspired by my mentee’s resilience and commitment – despite his young age and the challenges he faced, he still turned up to meet me and put himself outside his comfort zone to try new things.
I feel like a got a bit of an insight into what kinds of issues might come up for young refugees and asylum seekers. But I was also reminded that sometimes the issues aren’t specific to being a refugee or asylum seeker, but instead challenges that can come up for any young person.
I laughed a lot at our meetings and always came away feeling like I’d had a very interesting and fun hour!
What tips would you give to other volunteer mentors?
- Really listen to what’s being said and make sure you understand – sometimes the language barrier can make it tricky and it can feel easier to nod rather than clarify.
- Find ways to engage based on the young person’s interests – my mentee loved cricket and football so we did English practice around these topics either looking at sports news websites, sports magazines and books.
- Be mindful about what your mentee might have been through and be sensitive to that in your conversations.
- Preparation is key, it really helps especially in the early days.
We’d like to say a huge thank you to Michelle for volunteering with us and sharing her experiences and fantastic tips for other mentors.
If you’d like to become a volunteer mentor like Michelle, click the button below to find out more and apply!