Grandmentors Surrey, Volunteer Mentor’s story

Tricia Rogan is a volunteer Mentor with our Grandmentors project in Surrey.  Grandmentors volunteers empower young people leaving care by meeting with them regularly and working with them to realise their life goals and ambitions. This is achieved through the power of intergenerational mentoring. The impact can be transformational. In Surrey, care experienced young people independent or stable in sustaining education, employment or training increased by 50% from where it was at the beginning of their mentoring experience.

Now retired, before volunteering with Grandmentors, Tricia was working at an NHS 111 service call centre, which she left for health reasons when COVID struck. During that period, Tricia was keen to use her skill set and life experience to make a difference within her community. Throughout her life, Tricia has lived in four different countries and coached young people. Grandmentors was the perfect volunteering opportunity.

“I can’t reconmmend volunteer mentoring enough. Working with a young person starting out in the life is rewarding and a privilege”

We recently spoke to Tricia about her experience of volunteering with Grandmentors. Tricia describes her mentoring journey, highlighting the importance of taking time to build a relationship.

“I was immediately drawn to Grandmentors and the independent approach of being a mentor for a young person. I saw volunteer mentoring as an opportunity to be a voice of reason for a young person trying to find their way in a strange country. The first phase was to undertake and complete extensive training. I was then welcomed to Grandmentors as a volunteer mentor and asked to support a young man called Mehdi, who had come to the UK eight years previously as an unaccompanied refugee.

We used the well-known GROW Model to set some goals for Mehdi and agreed on regular checkpoints to monitor his progress.

From the outset, I was clear with Mehdi that I was not another official adult looking to tick a box in his life. It was essential to build trust slowly, over time. At times this could be challenging as initially Mehdi was withdrawn and distant, so I knew taking things at his pace was necessary. With perseverance and patience, we both began to see progress, particularly an improvement in Mehdi’s timekeeping.

Initially, we tended to walk in parks as Mehdi preferred to meet outside. During one of our walks, I told Mehdi I worked part-time at Claremont Landscape Garden, which interested him, so I arranged for us to visit.

When we visited Claremont, Mehdi came out of himself in a way I had not seen in our previous meetings. It was amazing to see him interact with my colleagues and enjoy feeding  the geese and ducks, which was a first-time experience for him. It was a total transformation, and the first time I saw Mehdi really smile.

From then on, Mehdi started to gradually engage with me more and felt comfortable having a bit of banter back and forth. Taking the time to build trust and communication is such an important part of mentoring. I never filled silences with talk – instead, I gave Mehdi space to process and think about things. Sometimes the silence says more than the actual words in terms of what people are feeling. Mehdi gradually began to open up. During one of our meetings, we found out that we were both grieving close family members who had passed during COVID and were able to share mutual experiences of how we felt. In a way, mentoring Mehdi has helped me with that bereavement process.

From there, we started to make progress, albeit slowly. I provided practical guidance on sending emails for Mehdi’s visa and his driving test application. He has successfully obtained both, the driving test on a third attempt! I have also supported Mehdi with getting back on track with studying GCSE English, which he now does weekly at college.

The end goal is to obtain an NVQ in carpentry. Mehdi understands that getting a carpentry apprenticeship may take some time, so after many applications, he now has a part-time job labouring for a local company and is learning new skills. The next stage for us is to go through the detailed process of applying for Mehdi’s NVQ.

Mehdi has been relatively isolated; however, he is coming out of himself and building a life through mentoring. He is doing well and takes things in his stride despite whatever challenges are thrown at him. He has a natural resilience, so I learn from him too. Mentoring is not about ‘fixing’ someone, but about empowering Mehdi as the person he is now, not the young unaccompanied refugee.

The GROW model gives Mehdi the space to explore options. We try things, and if we fail, we try something else. I have learned so much about myself, patience being one! This is a slow process that is all about building a trusting relationship.

All in all, this has been an amazing experience for Mehdi and me. We have benefitted and learned from each other over the past six months, and I do not doubt that Mehdi will continue to thrive, grow and build his confidence!

When asked to give some feedback a little while ago about the Grandmentors programme, Mehdi’s response made all the hard work worthwhile;”

“Having a Grandmentor is great idea, meeting Tricia regularly once a week getting to know each other, making goals, and getting amazing support to achieving my goals. She is absolutely lovely. She is very helpful to make and complete my CV and applying for jobs or the apprenticeship application which we did recently on government website. 

Overall, she is absolutely lovely, amazing, patient, good time keeping, great communication and walking activities (national trust Claremont) which we have done recently is just beautiful and lovely to visit.”

Mehdi, Grandmentor mentee

When asked if she would recommend volunteer mentoring to others, Tricia brilliantly sums up the unique experience of being part of Grandmentors.

“I can’t recommend volunteer mentoring enough. Working with a young person starting out in their life is rewarding and a privilege. It is only a few hours a week and makes a huge difference. It just works both ways!”

If you, like Tricia, want to share your life experience and skills to support a young person’s transition to an independent life, our Grandmentors team would love to hear from you. To find out more, please click here or email Grandmentors@volunteering.org.uk

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