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Annabel’s story: how Friendship Works supported my children

03 July 2023

It’s not always easy for families to find the time or the money to ensure their children have a varied and active summer holiday. Our Friendship Works programme matches young people aged 5-18 with mentors who can help them get out and about, broaden their horizons, support their emotional development and provide a trusted ear all year round. 

Here mum Annabel explains how we supported her two children. 

Problems at school  

My son was aged around 14 and things hadn’t been great ever since he had moved to secondary school.  

I would ask if he was unhappy and he would tell me he wanted to move schools, but nothing more.
He’s always been someone who just wants to get on with things and doesn’t really want to talk about them – he’s quite quiet and, although he’s always had friends, he’s one of those people who likes to be on the outside of social groups. 

I think classmates would wind him up at school by calling him names, and he would get annoyed about it, to the point where he told me that he was going to thump them.

I got in touch with Family Action’s Friendship Works Programme to see if they could help him with his confidence and his feelings around school…and they did so by showing him the world beyond it and broadening his horizons.  


Helping my son grow in confidence  

He’d only really seen the area of London where we lived but his mentor took him out of the borough to see different places and try different things.
For example, he’d never eat any kind of fish, but his mentor would take him to all these restaurants where he’d try fish dishes made with noodles and hot spices.  

They kept a scrapbook of these visits which my son still keeps, and talks about, to this day.  

I’m not sure he’d shared his thoughts with anyone before that, but his mentor helped him to do so, and his confidence grew out of that relationship.  

His mentor helped him to accept himself and understand he was good enough, whoever he was.  


A horizon-broadening friendship 

Instead of changing schools as he’d been suggesting, his mentor taught him to change his viewpoint, ignore classmates he’d never see again after school, and get on with his GCSEs. 

It was the best thing that ever happened to him.  

He passed his GCSEs and moved into full time work in a restaurant in a different borough.

Through it all he’s remained in contact with his mentor, and it’s become a wonderful friendship – they’re currently discussing his aspirations and planning his career and studies, so even now he’s continuing to broaden my son’s horizons. 


My daughter’s anxiety about school  

Friendship Works runs celebration events where the children can do activities and meet all the other mentors and we kept in touch… It was like a day out for us! 

My youngest daughter would come with us and she really enjoyed it, but I was upset because she was having severe anxiety about school and wasn’t attending.

I was in a bad state, and I cried while talking to a member of staff at the event.  

The staff member suggested that Friendship Works could help through a special mentoring programme specifically designed to help those struggling at school, where they met twice a week for six months.  

Finding a solution together 

They worked with my daughter and attended meetings at the school to help us manage her needs.

Eventually it became clear that her school wasn’t working, and it would be a better idea for my daughter to attend a specialist school, so they helped us make that move too.

Almost straight away she started getting up in the morning for school – I’ve never seen her so happy. 

Friendship Works helped me stop worrying  

It helped me too because I’m a single parent bringing up my children on my own and I’m very, very protective of her. In our local area we have problems with gangs and she’s vulnerable. 

I’m pleased she’s getting the support she needs to keep her safe and understand boundaries.  

I worry about my daughter 24/7. It never goes away… except when she’s with Friendship Works.

“I worry about my daughter 24/7. It never goes away… except when she’s with Friendship Works.”

Her mentor continued to meet her weekly and they helped her discuss her feelings if she was in a dark place and work on art and techniques to explain and record how she was feeling.  

I know Friendship Works wont judge me, we’re never alone.

When I was growing up, I wish I had this kind of support. 

Mentoring gives you a break so you have the time to bond with your other children, and supports you so you can learn how to be a good role model.
I would see other parents in my local area not doing the right thing, and I’d worry that I’d be judged by the local authority or other organisations in the same way because of who I am, mistakes I’ve made or money I owe, and my kids would be taken away. 

I had this fear but I don’t know why…  I’d worry about being a burden or bothering people. 

Friendship works aren’t going to come into your family and judge you.  

When you’re going through a crisis and nobody else is listening, Friendship works are always there to let you know you’re not alone. 

Could you be a Friendship Works volunteer? Find out more about the difference you could make. Then we could just have another one underneath or nearby. 
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