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.
Lisa Whitton is a volunteer Mentor with our Grandmentors project in Milton Keynes, who mentors Charlie, a care leaver. We recently spoke to Lisa and Charlie about their experience of Grandmentors. Their story highlights how the project has helped them in ways they didn’t expect.
Lisa told us;
“In March 2022, I began volunteering at Grandmentors in Milton Keynes. Prior to this, I had experience working with teenagers who had special educational needs, as well as managing an intervention unit for students with behavioural issues. After retiring, I was looking for an opportunity to do something for myself and read an article in in The Telegraph newspaper, which led me to Volunteering Matters who then pointed me towards Grandmentors.
I was matched with Charlie, a 21-year-old student at Oxford’s Mansfield College. Charlie is determined and intelligent but struggles with loneliness due to her neurodiversity. Charlie tends to see things in black and white, to worry, and sometimes tries to hide her autism.
As a Grandmentor, I reassure Charlie that life is nuanced and worrying about the unknown can make things seem worse. I offer practical support by listening, making lists, and helping her see things differently. Together we work on developing a mindset equipped to handle life’s ups and downs.
Charlie and I meet every week, exchange texts in between, and have lunch or go for walks in open spaces as Charlie prefers to meet outside of Oxford centre. We plan to attend the Christmas market at Waddesdon Manor in December as it’s nice to have something to look forward to. Charlie’s in her final year of university, so the pressure is on, and as her mentor I’m there to support and reassure her.
We discuss current events and Charlie advocates for volunteer mentors helping young people transitioning out of the care system. Her insights are profound, and she brilliantly describes the positive impact of intergenerational mentorship on young care leavers.
BEING CHARLIE’S GRANDMENTOR IS A PRIVILEGE. SHE’S RESILIENT, IS AN EXCEPTIONAL COMMUNICATOR, AND HAS GIVEN ME VALUABLE INSIGHTS INTO THE CARE SYSTEM AND HOW AUTISM AFFECTS DAILY LIFE. I’M GRATEFUL FOR THE LEARNING JOURNEY.
Recently, Charlie successfully completed an internship at Rolls Royce, received an Exhibition in college for outstanding performance and has been invited to be the opening speaker at the Institute of Student Employers Equity Diversity and Inclusion conference in London this month. I’m so proud of Charlie’s achievements and hope she continues to flourish through mentoring. She values my support, and I feel privileged to guide her. Our journey is about empowerment, support, and connection.
I am incredibly proud of what Charlie has accomplished and continues to achieve. I hope that Charlie flourishes through mentoring. She sometimes tells me, ‘I don’t know what I’d do without you.’ In a way, I feel the same. It is a privilege to support her in navigating this stage of her life. Essentially our journey is all about empowerment, support and mutual connection.
I highly recommend Grandmentors to anyone interested in volunteer mentoring. While it definitely requires a long-term commitment, it is incredibly rewarding. Focus on the mentee, commit for the long haul, and it can be life-changing.”
We were delighted to receive Charlie’s account of her positive experience with Lisa as her Grandmentor. It’s always encouraging to hear about successful mentor-mentee relationships and we appreciate Charlie sharing her story with us;
“I will try to keep this brief. I have learnt so much about myself and grown so much in the time that I’ve known Lisa. Had I not had her wisdom to draw from, and her emotional support, I don’t think I’d still be in Oxford today. She is the only adult I know whose judgement I can trust, who I know will give me reliable and genuine guidance that comes from a place of knowledge and care. I have struggled with so much at university, my first year was very rough, and I’ve had very dark points in my second year. Having Lisa to talk to gave me the emotional strength to push through, and she has supported me consistently in doing so. Both in giving me advice on what steps to take, and in gently pushing me to take those steps.
HAVING LISA IN MY LIFE HAS GIVEN ME THE CONFIDENCE TO TAKE BOLD STEPS, I HAVE A MUCH BETTER IDEA OF WHAT I WANT TO DO IN LIFE NOW- AND I ACTUALLY SEE IT IS A GOAL THAT’S REALISABLE. THIS IS BECAUSE MY CONVERSATIONS WITH LISA HAVE GIVEN ME THE SPACE TO GET TO KNOW MYSELF BETTER, AND TO BETTER ENGAGE WITH THE WORLD AROUND ME.
Lisa has been a massive help with navigating relationships, including friendships. I’m able to ask her what is and what is not healthy, and what expectations I should have. I don’t have any source like that in my life, so she’s given me a wealth of knowledge that I can use to build a strong and healthy support network around me. Alongside all of this, just having someone I can speak to and see regularly has been incredible. Even when we aren’t discussing harder topics or big life goals, having someone I can have a laugh with and relax around in a way that I can’t with people my own age, has been great. Lisa is a major role model to me, I really admire her generosity, her kindness, wisdom and adventurous spirit. Having her as a Grandmentor has shown me the type of person I want to be. Long story short, having a Grandmentor has been nothing short of life-changing.”
If you find Lisa and Charlie’s story inspiring, please don’t hesitate to contact the Grandmentors team. You don’t need any specific qualifications or skills to become a Grandmentor. All you need is a willingness to offer support to someone who needs it, based on your life experiences.
Or if want to find out how your business can support young people in your area, please get in touch with our Partnerships team.