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Children and young people facing multiple disadvantages in life such as the effects of domestic violence, caring for family members or their own mental health often experience social isolation and low self-esteem. They are at higher risk of becoming involved in criminal activity or addicted to drugs or alcohol, less likely to achieve academically and more likely to experience poor mental health in adulthood.

Friendship Works has been working with children experiencing difficulties like these since 1977 with male and female volunteer mentors helping young people to explore their potential, get more out of their childhood, and develop valuable life skills. The service is the only youth mentoring scheme in London that offers long-term, frequent and regular contact between a child or young person and their mentor, and is proven to have a positive and meaningful impact.

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What our volunteers do

Whatever a child’s particular circumstances, regular contact with a mentor gives them access to new experiences and opportunities as well as some one to talk to about the challenges they face. Building a stable, positive friendship with a mentor supports their emotional wellbeing and helps build the resilience they need to cope with adversity now and in the future.

We need male and female adult volunteers to build a stable and positive friendship with a child or young person through weekly outings. These outings take place at the weekend and last for 3-4 hours giving mentors and mentees a chance to explore mutual interests, new activities and explore London together.

As a volunteer mentor you will:

  • Develop a safe and stable friendship with your mentee helping to build their confidence and self esteem.
  • Be able to introduce a young person or child to a range of new opportunities and activities.
  • Be able to see beyond a child’s external presentation and understand the emotional needs underlying their behaviour.
  • Bring stability, security and consistency to a child’s life through weekly contact for 2 years.
  • Know when to provide advice and guidance, and when it’s better to just listen.
  • Help a young person to explore their potential and get more out of their childhood.
  • Support a young person to develop new life skills through sharing knowledge and experience.
  • Support a child’s emotional well being as a trusted adult for them to talk to about the challenges they face.
  • Be a positive, active and fun role model for your mentee.

Role Profile

Application process information

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Training and support

We are committed to ensuring all our volunteer mentors are provided with the support, supervision and training they need to be confident about building a safe meaningful friendship with a young person. Our selection process for volunteer mentors allows us to ensure the safety of the children we support, but also provides an opportunity for you and us to assess whether this is the right volunteering opportunity for you.

As part of your ongoing training and support you will:

  • Attend a two hour information event to meet our team, hear from young people we support and current Friendship Works mentors
  • Attend a group training and assessment weekend to build your skills and knowledge before you begin mentoring. This includes sessions on active listening, safeguarding children and how to respond to different situations you may encounter as a mentor
  • Engage in regular supervision calls with a named caseworker once you are matched with a young person
  • Have access to support, advice or guidance about your mentoring friendship whenever you need it
  • Take part in 6 monthly reviews to discuss how your friendship is developing in more depth and explore any additional support you may need

A mum's story

Sara’s son Ben was matched with Rhys

From the very first outing the mentoring had a huge positive effect on my son Ben. His psychology team warned that often there is a big positive change at the beginning, but then things regress. This was not the case with us. Positive changes where immediate and increased with every outing.

I was referred to Friendship works as it was agreed that it would be good for Ben to have a healthy male role model.

Before our first meeting with Rhys, I suddenly became really nervous about what kind of influence he would have on my son.  Ben is so young, impressionable and vulnerable. I thought about it and reminded myself that the whole reason that we were doing this was so the mentor would have an influence on him.

At the initial meeting I instantly saw that Rhys is exceptionally social skilled.  He put me at ease in all sorts of small ways and my worries dissolved.  After the first meeting Ben was really relaxed and happy and I could even see a change in his posture.  He felt lucky to have been on the outing and couldn’t quite believe that he would get the chance to see Rhys on a regular basis, and actually neither could I. I couldn’t believe how lucky we were to have such a great mentor, and I still feel that every time Ben goes off on an outing.

Definitely at the beginning I thought that where they went on the outings was not really important. For my son just being around his mentor was the main thing. And although this is still true, over time I have seen that the matching process is quite important as shared interests really add to the process.  Rhys is extremely knowledgeable about a wide variety of things, and Ben is absorbing it all.  Also over time a deeper trust developed, which is different phase.

Having a mentor has been life changing for Ben. His future started changing before my eyes from the very first outing, and I am very grateful.

A mentor's story

Rhys has been a mentor to Ben for fourteen months. Their friendship has inspired positive change in both of them.

Initially I signed up for Friendship Works because I had been involved in a charity day at work and wanted to do more. It is well documented that those who volunteer are happier and that giving time to support others is good for your well being. I wanted to feel that I was making a positive contribution, so I started searching for volunteering opportunities. When I came across Friendship Works, I liked the idea of having a direct, positive impact in someone else’s life. Mentoring is a big commitment, but it seemed very manageable for me to fit it into my life.

After I had been through the assessment process, my caseworker told me about a seven year old boy called Ben who was waiting for a mentor. They gave me a bit of background, so I knew that he lived with his mum and they didn’t have any other family around so they were quite isolated. He was described as a shy boy who struggled to make eye contact with adults, who was having problems making friends at school. His mum had asked Friendship Works if a man could mentor him as he didn’t have any positive male role models in his life at that time, and the caseworkers thought we would get along well.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first met Ben about fourteen months ago. He was a little bit shy, but straight away I could see the bright, inquisitive boy underneath that. He was very quick to engage with me, asking questions and wanting to know what I liked. We found common ground early on through our love of chess and an interest in science and maths. He has a great thirst for knowledge, which I appreciated. I have a bank of lots of useless little facts which I drip feed him, and he has now started to do the same with me.

“We still enjoy playing chess together at the cafe, and I’ve also introduced him to other games, but we’ve been on a wide variety of outings over the last year or so. We have visited the Science and Natural History Museums; been to a live dinosaur stage show, which was great; visited the Olympic Park where we tried a whole variety of sports; we play football and Frisbee together; and I have recently started teaching him how to ride a bike. Ben’s mum has helped come up with some great ideas for outings too, things that I wouldn’t necessarily have found myself.

I have definitely seen a change in Ben over the past year. At first he tended to avoid eye contact, and lacked a conversational demeanour around me, but now he is a more confident and has become a lot more playful with me.  He has changed around other people as well. On the advice of my caseworker, I have encouraged him to engage with others in small ways when we are out and about – for example, by paying for things in shops or ordering his own food in a cafe. We recently attended the Friendship Works Awards Ceremony together, and he was engaging with new adults in a way that he wouldn’t have been able to do when I first met him. Ben was asked what he thought about me at that event, and he said, ‘He’s really thoughtful; he always looks out for me.’

I got involved with Friendship Works because I wanted to have a positive impact, and it is inspiring to know that just by giving up a small amount of my time, I can make a difference to someone’s life. I am a happier person now, and a lot of that has come from the fact I am doing something worthwhile. Ben and his mum have said some wonderful things about me and the difference I have made. But really all I have done is make plans, turn up and give him my attention for a couple of hours each week. It just makes me think, if it’s that easy, imagine the difference we could make if everyone did something like this…

Family Action Friendship Works Mentoring Service

24 Angel Gate, City Road
Islington
020 7254 6251