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Gabrielle’s story – the difference I make as a mentor

22 July 2019

Gabrielle is a volunteer mentor with our Friendship Works service. She writes about how her friendship with Crocello, her mentee, has grown over the past two years.

After years of voluntary work with adult trauma survivors, I needed a change of direction whilst continuing to volunteer, as it is an important part of my life. I saw the Friendship Works website while looking online, and their mentor scheme struck me as a fresh and useful way of supporting young people. At the induction meeting, I learned there was a secure supervision system in place for volunteers – this was important to me – and the young people who spoke about their mentoring experience were absolutely inspirational. So I decided to go for it and apply for an interview.

During the thorough training, I was encouraged to describe the young person to whom I would be best suited as a mentor. I had strong assumptions about this: firstly, as the mother of a daughter and no sons, I was confident a girl would be a better match with me. Secondly, as an older volunteer, I assumed teenagers would prefer mentors nearer their own age. So I asked to be matched with a girl under twelve years old.

After several months my caseworker suggested Crocello as a mentee. A young man of sixteen! My first thought was “Why on earth would they suggest him?” But after I had considered for a while, I decided to trust in the opinion of the experienced professionals, and at least meet Crocello to see if we were suited.

“we share plenty of enthusiasms”

Thirty-three outings later, I know not to make assumptions. On paper, Crocello’s and my gender, age, background, history and experience appear to be almost opposite to each other. But in real life, we share plenty of enthusiasms, such as art, history, music, Netflix, food and more, including a rather dry sense of humour.

We share the choice of outings too, and I have been surprised how much I have enjoyed activities which I wouldn’t have considered had Crocello not suggested them… I am now a convert to Manga, graffiti art and ironic superhero movies. I believe Crocello feels the same way and has enjoyed my choices too.

I think we have both grown in many ways during the last two years. Highlights are difficult to choose, but sketching together and appreciating each other’s artwork, enjoying pizza and Chinese food, solving crosswords on our bus journeys, browsing in art supply stores and laughing at some of the ridiculous articles we see in museum shops are all experiences which aren’t expensive, but they are priceless.

I was very lucky to be paired with Crocello and I think those who come to know him in his higher education, and his later career, will feel lucky too. His ideas are original and thought-provoking. He has grown in confidence and is a unique and talented young man. What looked on paper an unlikely match has turned into an unconventional and fun friendship which has brought us both new life skills. I can’t thank Friendship Works, Crocello and his supportive family enough for this opportunity, and I hope anyone who thinks of volunteering will cast aside their assumptions and seize the day. It’s amazing.

Our Friendship Works service is always looking for more volunteer mentors. Visit our Mentor a Child page to find out more. If you haven’t already read Crocello’s story here.