All posts by karlschofield

I work as the Project Coordinator for Scope's Our Generation Mentoring and Befriending Project.

To volunteer or not to volunteer – that is the question

A guest blog from a volunteer at Scope’s Our Generation project.

I became a volunteer Mentor over 4 years ago after being made redundant from my job as a sales manager for a construction company. I had been doing this for over 23 years and loved it, so being made redundant was tough.

I have always felt I should try to embrace change as I have found good things can often come out of bad. I felt I needed to do something to keep my mind active so I decided to give volunteering a try.

Even though I have spent most of my adult working life being in front of people, I was quite daunted at the prospect of going to meet total strangers.

As it turned out I really enjoyed the training and met some really lovely people. My Mentees have been so varied, people from all walks of life, facing a diversity of challenges many of which I had never considered.

I do believe that the people I have encountered have made as much of a difference to me as I hope I have made to them.

I still keep in touch with several of them and meet up with them as time permits as for some strange reason they want to keep in touch with me!

So if you are in any sort of doubt, give it a try. Realise what you can give with your time and see how much you get out of volunteering!

Sue’s story

Guest post from Sue who is a mentor at Scope’s Our Generation project.

I became involved with the Our Generation Project after being with the mentoring scheme through Scope for about three years. After I lost my husband I needed to fill my time. Initially it was to help me stop thinking about my loss but I also realised that I could use my experiences to help others. 

I would soon meet my first mentee. We went shopping one week and on alternate weeks we met at the office to improve his reading and writing skills. Eventually, he decided to go on to college which was very pleasing to me. I felt I had helped a little on his path to improving his life.

Then I met two people who had suffered breakdowns and who were not coping so well. One became a close friend; we still meet every week to chat and shop. The other liked to walk, so we would walk around the local lake.

My latest mentee has been house-bound after suffering a stroke. We enjoy a chat every other week. We are now looking into what we can do to help him get out and about.

We talk a lot, something I have always been good at, and I hope I give him something to look forward to when we meet. He usually seems more cheerful when I leave. That may be because he is glad of a break from my talking, but I hope not!

I have really enjoyed meeting new people through the Our Generation Project. It’s been really rewarding for me knowing that, in a small way, I can support people to feel more confident in achieving their goals and improving their lives.

Our Generation is a free mentoring and befriending service that offers one-to-one support for disabled people and people with long-term health conditions over the age of 50.

A question of confidence

A guest blog from a volunteer at Scope’s Our Generation project. 

After two bouts of illness earlier in the year, I found I had lost my confidence and was struggling with anxiety and depression. The Health and Wellbeing visitor called and referred me to Our Generation Mentoring and Befriending Service. I hadn’t heard of the service and to be honest, I didn’t know what mentoring was. The Scope Co-ordinator called and explained everything. They matched me with my Mentor and we met at the office, which felt safe for our first meeting.

The meeting went very well and my Mentor really made me feel at ease. One of the things which we discussed was that I should like help to become more computer literate as my daughter is living overseas and it would help us to keep in touch. I made such good progress I surprised myself and have even bought an i-pad! My confidence in using it increases with each meeting. I have found that this increased confidence has permeated other areas of my life and I am now able to meet my Mentor in town.

Every two years I visit my daughter. I am due to go next year but the anxiety and depression I have experienced has made the lone journey seem incredibly daunting. However, since working with the Our Generation Mentor I can feel my confidence returning and I’m beginning to really look forward to this years visit.

I recently attended the Our Generation Xmas party which I thoroughly enjoyed. Just a few weeks ago I wouldn’t have believed that I could have the confidence to go along on my own.

The Co-ordinator has suggested I attend the Mentoring Skills Training Course at the office as my next challenge and I surprised myself by saying that I’ll think about it!

You can prove anything with statistics….

George Bernard Shaw is the only person to have been awarded both a Nobel Prize and an Oscar. He once remarked “It is the mark of a truly intelligent person to be moved by statistics.”

Sadly this confirms that my intelligence is not what I might have hoped. It’s very rare that I find statistics anything other than dull.

But perhaps I need to think more about what lies behind the statistics.

As part of our monitoring the Our Generation project, we use questionnaires and look at numbers of people engaged with the project. Even though these tools give us a good overall picture of what we have achieved, for me they never really capture the personal impact our project has on the people who take part.

One of our volunteers was referred to us some time ago as someone who could potentially benefit from our service. She was matched to a mentor and together they worked on building up her confidence.

To begin with she was apprehensive about leaving her home. Initially we worked towards the goal of her being able to travel to our office for meetings and then progressed to meeting other service users and volunteers. Over time, her confidence increased to the point where she completed our volunteer training course and became a mentor for others.

Now she is now able to travel independently. She enjoys weekly aqua-aerobics, is a committee member with her local social club as well as volunteering for our project, supporting other people to improve their lives.

In an email she recently wrote to us, she wrote:

“I was at the eye clinic last week and unfortunately they have changed my status from partially sighted to severely sight impaired/blind. The doctor says there is nothing more they can do. I will gradually lose sight in both eyes due to cataracts and can’t be operated on due to the glaucoma but thanks to all at Scope I’m able to take each day as it comes because im now in a much better frame of mind and feel much stronger. I just wanted to say thank you so much for being there for me.”

So next time I see in a report that “service users expressed an improvement in Life Satisfaction from an average of 4.5/10 to 7.5/10” maybe I’ll be able to see past the numbers to the real stories that lie behind them. Those can be genuinely moving.

New mentors

Here at Our Generation we have just completed our fourth Mentoring and Befriending training course! So we now have five new mentors who are raring to go.

Mentors feedback from the course has been really positive. Here is how one new mentor described their experience.

“A fabulous course – interesting, informative, supportive, the course tutor is very approachable and makes things easy to understand”

Of course, it’s not all praise as we encourage feedback that will allow us to make improvements to our practice. Two of our latest mentors expressed that they felt the course would have benefited from more video case studies and so we are now planning to expand this area in our next training course.

The new mentors have also expressed that they are keen to meet with the experienced mentors who already volunteer for the project. So we have invited them to our next steering group meeting where they will have the opportunity to meet existing mentors and begin to participate in the management of the project.

I will leave you with a quote from one of our new mentors:

“Woohoo! I actually finished my Our Generation training today. This is a huge achievement for me. I was informed about this project through my job centre advisor, who knew what I wanted to do with my life.

This came at a time when I was feeling very low and despondent. Since then I have met some great people, done some brilliant training and am looking forward to making a positive difference to peoples lives when I start mentoring and befriending.”

Find out more about the Our Generation project, and read our previous blogs.

Fabienne’s Story

Guest post from Fabienne who is a mentor at Scope’s Our Generation project.

A few years ago, I made the brave decision to leave my job of many years as a classroom teacher. Without realising it, I had gradually developed a range of negative and self-destructive thoughts and feelings about different aspects of my work. It took time and effort to acknowledge the outcome of my decision. I was unable to see my situation clearly and I found myself engulfed in a storm of unhealthy emotions: anxiety, fear of the future, guilt, worthlessness, an overwhelming feeling of failure and my inability to find any good, positive achievements in my life.

I knew deep down that I had to try to be proactive, so I requested from my GP, and received some outside support, which showed me some positive ways to start moving forward. One of the professionals told me about the work that the Our Generation Project and suggested paying them a visit.

After talking to one of the coordinators, I decided to register with the service as mentee. I felt that this was an opportunity not to be missed, something I had not tried before, and something which fitted well with my aim of keeping an open mind.

Over the course of year, I received regular support from two different mentors. They both gave me a listening, understanding and empathetic ear. Every meeting, I was encouraged to talk freely and at my own pace, without judgement or pressure. I was encouraged to develop my own coping strategies and to acknowledge my on-going progress. I received support in identifying my short-term and long term-goals, as well as workable ideas for self-development and relaxation techniques, run by the WEA, and both courses played an important part in my progress. I was able to practice and apply a range of the techniques in my daily life.

As I write this, I have managed to continue to develop some private tuition and to rebuild my confidence in teaching. I am working as a church volunteer in the community café in the village where I live and have really enjoyed being involved in something entirely new while meeting new people and making new friends. And I am currently in the process of completing a mentoring/befriending training course for Scope’s new project called Silver Dreams – Our Generation.

I would like to be able to give something back to a wonderful service and I would like to express my grateful thanks for all the guidance and support I have received from my mentors and from the coordinators who have helped me to start believing in myself.

Our Generation is a free mentoring and befriending service that offers one-to-one support for disabled people and people with long-term health conditions over the age of 50.

Precourse nerves

Guest post from Ann who is a mentor at Scope’s Our Generation project.

A friend asked me if I’d like to be a mentor for Scope, she thought I would be good at it, but my illness and looking after my mum left me very vulnerable emotionally and physically. I did not think I could do it at the time, I did not think I was good enough to do that sort of thing. She laughed and said “You have been a mentor for years, you just have not realised it.”

I was very nervous about my first mentoring class. I have hearing difficulties and wondered if this would be a problem. The last time I did any writing was at school 43 years ago. Would I show myself up? Would I be able to keep up with other people on the course? I felt so vulnerable.

When I met my fellow trainee’s I realised we all had our own fears as we listened and learned and discussed different scenarios. I took notes in the class and in my nervousness made silly mistakes, but found they helped me when I read through them at home, so this is where I filled in and wrote out my work without any pressure.

During the course we were asked whether we wanted to go in for the exam and a certificate or just do the class work. The choice was ours. Again I was very nervous about this. Would it be hard? Could I do it? Would I feel like an idiot if I didn’t pass? I thought long and hard about it and decided as I was doing the work anyway I would try my best and see what happened.

If you do not try you will never know what you can achieve.

Our Generation is a free mentoring and befriending service that offers one-to-one support for disabled people and people with long-term health conditions over the age of 50.

Being a volunteer

Guest post from Sam Best

I began volunteering just over 10 years ago when I was asked by a friend to become a Homestart volunteer. This is an organisation which provides support to mothers with young children. Having been a young mother with four children, I knew how much I would’ve liked such a service. I still volunteer for Homestart and support a family now.

Making time to volunteer for others is no hardship and when I was asked if I would like to take part in Scope’s Our Generation project I saw it as a great opportunity to support my local community.

The training was a weekly session with a small group of other volunteers, held over a few weeks. I really enjoyed the training; it was fun, informal and without a lot of academic jargon.

Volunteering – “a hugely rewarding experience”

I find volunteering a hugely rewarding experience. To know that a small effort on my part can make a big difference in someone else’s life is extremely satisfying.

Currently I am matched with a lady I visit once a week who has little local support from friends or family, and whose health is not very good. She always looks forward to my visits and welcomes me warmly. Sitting, talking and getting to know each other is enjoyable for both of us. Although it’s early days, I can already see the impact this support is making and I’m excited about getting her more involved with her local community.

I would recommend volunteering to anyone who has yet to experience it. It is a wonderful way to make a difference and there is definitely a ‘feel good’ factor in doing something for someone else.

All I wanted was to go back to being ‘normal’

This blog entry is from one of our new mentors from Scope’s Our Generation project in Wakefield.

I am a 52-year-old woman originally from Glasgow. I moved to Wakefield six years ago with a new partner, following the breakdown of a relationship of 20 years. For the first three months we lived with relatives of my partner which I found extremely difficult. I had been suffering from depression, anxiety and OCD for a long time and I found living in someone else’s home a nightmare to deal with.

The situation took its toll – I was so desperate to have a place of my own that we declared ourselves homeless. Due to my medical difficulties I was classed as a priority and we were given a bungalow. All my belongings had been left behind in Glasgow so we moved in three days before Christmas with no furniture. I had also left my adult daughter behind in Glasgow which broke my heart and I found it hard to cope with the guilt of leaving her.

I hit rock bottom – my depression and anxiety got worse, I gained weight and hated myself. I felt I had nothing left to live for. It was at this point that I was put in touch with Scope and the mentoring service. At first I didn’t think it was for me as I had never needed support or help from anyone but I couldn’t cope on my own any longer, so I finally made arrangements for a Scope worker to visit me. I found her really compassionate and caring. She introduced me to a mentor who started to come to the house and eventually I found the courage to start going out. It was only small things like going out for a coffee or for a walk round the supermarket but it was a start.

All I wanted was to go back to being ‘normal’ – simple things like getting on a bus alone or going into a shop without having panic attacks. With the support of the service that is what I have managed to achieve. I still have times when I feel depressed and down but I now have friends who I know won’t and don’t judge me. Thanks to Scope I have some sort of life back and life doesn’t seem as bad as I once thought.

I have just finished the mentoring course with Scope and now hope to become a mentor to others. I just want to give someone the strength and courage to live their life as fully as they can. I am a different person thanks to the people at Scope and I hope I will make a huge difference to someone else’s life.

Our Generation is a free mentoring and befriending service that offers one-to-one support for disabled people and people with long-term health conditions over the age of 50.

An enjoyable experience

This blog entry comes at the end of our first mentoring and befriending training course. It is compiled from the feedback of those who took part, and I’d like to say a big thank you to them for their attendance and commitment. We were delighted to hear it had been “a very enjoyable experience”!

Trainee mentors felt the best things about the course were “the tutors, staff and people I have been training with” and the “friendly atmosphere and common sense approach to the subject”. They felt “very well prepared” for their role as a mentor, but also acknowledged that they would only really know that the role was right for them when the work begins.

One trainee said “the course has given me a real sense of purpose. I always look forward to coming and my personal confidence and self-esteem has grown a lot.” This was, of course, excellent news as building confidence is essential to the success of the project. Other mentors have acknowledged, in planning meetings and the steering group, that confidence is the starting point for so many things, such as joining groups and embarking on new experiences.

It was also good to hear that the course had been challenging, too. Mentoring is not an easy option, and our training course tries to reflect that (without putting people off). Participants said that had learned things about their own communication and listening skills, and interpersonal relationships. Listening is a key part of the mentoring relationship and something we focus on in the training – someone once said to me “are you listening, or are you waiting to speak?” and this has always stayed with me as a good example of how we probaby all need to learn to listen more actively!

Meanwhile, we are hoping that we’ve seen the last of the snow, as the bad weather has undoubtedly impacted on the project. A number of the groups we wanted to attend to promote the project have been cancelled.

I will leave the final comment to one of our trainees:

“I am looking forward to contributing whatever I can to Scope and the mentees I will be given to befriend and empower. I am very happy to have been given this opportunity. Thanks to all of you for making this possible”

Our Generation is a free mentoring and befriending service that offers one-to-one support for disabled people and people with long-term health conditions over the age of 50.