Dawit, now 17 years old, had been in the UK for just 4 months when he was matched with his mentor Alex. This is the story of their mentoring journey – the challenges they faced along the way and their remarkable achievements!
Dawit, from Eritrea, was just 16 when he arrived in the UK. He faced many challenges while he tried to settle into his new life here. As with many other young and unaccompanied people, the challenges he faced were vast: navigating a confusing asylum system, getting used to a new school, difficulty in accessing support and services, and feeling alone and isolated. All of this was exacerbated by a language barrier:
When I came here it was very struggle to live here, because of the language, it makes me stressed, my feelings, it was a very bad time Dawit - Mentee
Dawit felt that if he could improve his English, everything else would become easier. He would be able to express his thoughts better and if he had a problem, he would be able to ask for help. When Dawit was referred to Hope for the Young, this was one of the main things he said he wanted to achieve.
If I learn English, everything will be easier. Dawit - Mentee
Dawit was matched with his mentor, Alex. Alex works in the civil service and moved to the UK from Romania to attend university. She understood the challenges of integrating into a new community, making friends, and trying to understand how things work. Although the circumstances in which she arrived in the UK were very different to Dawit’s, she felt as though she wanted to give back to a young person who faced similar challenges.
As London was in lockdown, Alex and Dawit started their mentoring relationship online. Meeting a complete stranger online can be a strange experience, but they soon got into the swing of things:
It was for me strange, in that time, I was nervous of her, but when I meet her again and again, it was just like family, like a sister. I was enjoying and laughing, talking about each other’s culture. Dawit - Mentee
I was excited to meet Dawit and start working on his goals, but also a bit nervous about what the virtual sessions would be like, making sure the activities and exercises I found were interesting enough. Alex - Mentor
Dawit initially felt very emotional about his struggles with English as he was also feeling isolated in school because of it. As this was their main priority, they got to work on this straight away and they focused on areas he found most challenging. One of which was speaking, so Alex set Dawit a task of preparing a presentation for their session on a topic of his choice, he chose ‘happiness’.
Another issue they identified was that Dawit was not happy with his college course choices. He was in his final year at school and had been enrolled onto a painting and decorating course at his new college. This is not what he wanted to do, but due to the language barrier, he didn’t know how to go about changing this or expressing how he felt. He was also unsure about what his options were.
I was very confused at this time, what I had to do or what I wanted to do. She helped me figure out what I want to do, because I had a lot of options, but I didn’t know which one was best for me. I was struggling by myself. It was very helpful for me. Now I can choose what I want to do and what is best for me. This is one of my biggest successes of mentoring. Dawit - Mentee
Through their mentoring sessions they worked through his different options, with Alex supporting him to choose a course that was right for him. Dawit is now enrolled on a college course of his choice and is studying Engineering! He has dreams of working in aerospace one day and this is the best next step in fulfilling this goal.
After almost 1 year of mentoring, Dawit has seen his life completely change…
Before I meet her, I was in school, but now I’m in college. I had some problems in my language but compared with that time I had improved my English and confidence, so now I’m feeling good, and I have explored some places, and how to use transport. Dawit - Mentee
Mentoring is also a mutually beneficial relationship, and our mentors often get just as much out of it as the young person:
Mentoring creates really supportive and enriching relationships between mentors and the young people. I hope I have made a positive contribution in Dawit's life, and I have definitely gained a lot by being his mentor. I have learned a lot about his culture and what it's like for young people trying to navigate the school system in the UK. Alex - Mentor
Dawit and Alex’s story is one of many here at Hope for the Young. However, each young person will have their own set of challenges as well as their own hopes and aspirations. Alex was able to give Dawit the specific support that he needed to move past the barriers placed before him, and to start making small steps towards where he wants to be.
Mentoring has the potential to change a young person’s life for the better. If you’d like to become a Volunteer Mentor or donate to Hope for the Young, hit the buttons below.