Sherin works full-time for the charity Save the Children and recently started volunteering for WBAF
What’s your official volunteer title?
I’m a mentor.
Why did you choose to volunteer with WBAF?
I learnt about the charity from a friend and I immediately loved the idea of mentoring young people. It seems such a meaningful cause. Also, living in London now, I wanted to make myself useful to the community, in any small way possible.
What are your volunteering duties?
I call the mentee and the family every week, normally on the same day and at the same time, to create a sense of regularity. Then I write about our conversations in the evidence log. I mentor the same young person for six months, so that’s quite a number of conversations.
How have you managed to build a relationship?
It’s still at an early stage. However, my mentee likes to talk about various topics – family, school, hobbies, ambitions. And they’re slowly getting to grips with the purpose of this mentoring program.
What activities do you do with your mentee?
Because of the lockdown we’re restricted to just talking at the moment. I usually start off with a re-cap of the tasks we agreed last week that they should have carried out throughout the week. Things such as mindfulness exercises before going to bed. They tell me how they did and then we’ll naturally continue onto other topics we want to cover.
One interesting activity we’ve started is playing riddles with each other over the phone. We each take turns coming up with the riddles while the other has 10 tries to guess the answer. This simple game can instantly lighten the mood.
What improvements have you noticed in their behaviour?
They were slightly reserved in the beginning, but by the third session, they began to relax and open up. However, it is not always easy to read the true level of engagement without face-to-face contact.
What difficulties have you found with volunteering?
At the moment, the most obvious difficulty is not physically being in their presence. Fortunately, using the landline telephone, there are no signalling problems.
To fill any awkward silences, I tend to share a little about myself. It means the relationship is not so one-sided. I also ask them for recommendations of books, movies, or social media trends like TikTok. That way they can share their opinions with me. But whatever difficulties come up doesn’t stop us having fruitful conversations every week.
How much time do you have to put into the role?
About two hours a week – a one-hour phone call, and one hour to prepare beforehand and write the report up afterwards.
What do you get out of being a volunteer?
I’ve learned that convincing young people, especially those from less advantaged backgrounds, that they have a bright future is not easy. Regardless of what resources may be available to them.
Working for Save the Children is part of the reason I believe in young people. Those in Westminster are in a much better position than millions of children around the world. They just need to believe it.
Shifting their mindset is the crucial piece of the puzzle. I know I will definitely feel I’ve achieved something if my mentee sees a tiny fraction of hope in their future and works towards it.
Would you recommend volunteering at WBAF to others?
Yes. In fact, I’ve recommended WBAF to a number of my friends already. I hope they make their way into the next batch of mentors!