Getting back out into the world: Caroline’s* journey as a mentor

Having been retired for over 10 years and disconnected from the buzz of Manchester city centre, Caroline was at a standstill. A recommendation from a friend to get involved with 1MM changed all that – giving both Caroline and her mentee the confidence to get out of their comfort zones.  

Why did you choose to mentor?

I’d been retired well over 10 years and because I was looking after my dad down in South Wales, I couldn’t get involved in very much up here in Manchester. When you retire it’s quite difficult to decide what to do. I didn’t do very much for 10 years. I came back to Manchester because dad died. He was an amazing man. Then I thought – what do I do now?

I was at a standstill; then this friend of mine told me about 1MM. I thought that sounds absolutely perfect, because it’s contact with young people which I’m used to from when I was at work. I used to teach – I originally taught apprentices, those horrible 16-, 17-, 18-year-old boys!

Then I went into counselling and I loved it loved it loved it.

When I was young, and all the way through my working career, I didn’t think young people were heard enough. They didn’t have a voice. And when you’re a counsellor you realise that everybody has something to say. It’s quite astonishing how you can make judgements about people, but actually when you hear their story it changes how you think about them.

I feel like I understand a little bit about the difficulties people have and understand them. I want to help, because I really do think that if people speak up you can change an awful lot of things.

I also thought that mentoring was an opportunity to know what was going on in the world because you get very isolated when not in the workplace and I miss that involvement – it gets very boring spending time with old people all the time!

“When I was young, and all the way through my working career, I didn’t think young people were heard enough. They didn’t have a voice”

Have you enjoyed your mentoring experience?

Absolutely, totally and utterly enjoyed it.

It’s exciting and scary. It pushes you to do things when you think I’d rather stay in bed or watch telly. It’s stimulating. It probably does more for a mentor like me than it does for the kids that you speak to. You’re doing a service for the retired people as well. It’s a two-way thing. It’s brilliant for both mentor and mentee.

Have you noticed the impact that mentoring has had on your mentee?

Well, I think that she started off quite shy and reticent. By the end, I think she was much more confident. And I think, to me it broadened her view of what she wants to be.

For example, she wanted to improve her public speaking so I got her to give me a presentation on something for 10 minutes. And she did it and it was brilliant, absolutely brilliant! Then she said that she gave a presentation in her RE class and she wanted to take part in her debate club. She’s an incredibly bright young woman and I think the confidence to use it was what she was looking for. The permission almost to go for it and she did. So that was great.

Is there anything you will do differently in the future, now that you have been a mentor for a young person?

The thing I have always said is, you can’t counsel someone on your own. They’ve got to want to do it. No good having a kid coming to mentoring if they don’t really want to do it. Fact is that she really wanted to do it. She took every opportunity that was available. She said yes to everything. She doesn’t come from a high education background or anything and it was just lovely – wonderful you know.

What would you say to someone who is considering mentoring with 1MM?

If someone is considering doing it I would say go for it, you’ll love it. I was out in the world and I felt alive. I’ve got grandchildren, loads of friends, I go out I do things. But mentoring is a privilege. Your grandchildren see you as your old granny and you don’t feel as if they’re going to take any notice of anything you say. Whereas these kids, hopefully because it’s someone different, outside of their family and normal range of people, they do take notice. I just think that it’s a brilliant, brilliant idea and I really hope it continues to work.