2 June 2015
When Ione asked me to write a couple of words about my volunteering experience – at first I thought that there actually is not much to write about. A certain number of meetings and my mentee’s new job – is that worth describing?
On second thoughts, however, when I looked at the process from different angles and tried to find some new perspective – it turned out to be something multidimensional and thought provoking far beyond the meetings themselves.
I am briefly refering to all of these ideas below.
Why volunteer? Why at YG?
Originally I came from Poland and in the UK I have lived for not longer than 9 months. Having settled in Gloucester I decided to look for some activity which would allow me to learn, master my language, understand things and meet some new people. Back in Poland I had experienced volunteering for a few charities and I knew how rewarding it can be. I had always loved to work with people so when “Google, tell me” told me that YG were looking for volunteer mentors I knew this could be the right place for me.
Who doesn’t have them?
Some of us experience doubts to a greater extent, some to a lesser extent. I belong to group one – doubts happen to be my second name. Do I really have something to say (as someone said – there is a difference between the one who have something to say and those who have to say something)? And especially to people much younger than me? Would anyone want to listen? What if I do not know what to advise, how to deal with certain issues? And if I turn out to be a poor listener? And – on top of everything – since I am new to this country and English is not my native language, can I really be efficient?
Now, after half a year, I can tell you for sure – it does not matter what and who you are. People need to be listened to and not judged. On the other hand the human ability to actively listen to others is a universal thing and when it’s there, the importance of all other issues such as age, origin, understanding of the particular system, experience etc. seems to be much smaller.
I was matched with a brilliant girl whose goal was to find a job in the childcare area and start her Level 3 course. We had our initial meetings assisted by Ione (YG mentor lead) who was of great support as we were getting to know each other, and then agreed our own schedule of meetings and things we wanted to discuss. We covered a huge range of topics – not always connected with my or my mentee’s professional careers – and I believe it was the key to success in our case, allowing various issues to sound out and be discussed.
Finally – step by step – my mentee found a workplace which seems really satisfying to her, she started her Level 3 course and is now really busy. I feel very happy for her and for myself as well, as I have learned a lot through this experience – starting from enhancing my listening skills, through empathy and understanding to the proper pronunciation of certain English words.
You can hear quite often here and there how hard it has become in the recent years to communicate and cope with young people. To give it some perspective, let me share a quote with you:
The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.
Sounds familiar? Any guesses who and when might have said it?
This quote is believed to be said by Socrates (although some researchers have certain doubts about it). Whether it is truly Socrates’ observation or not – what I want to say is that I believe young people are not better or worse than 20, 50, 1000 years ago. So maybe instead of complaining about today’s trends we could help someone and also ourselves supporting their development with what each of us (supposedly) has – a pair of ears and some common sense.