Thoughts of a Volunteer MentorPosted on 3rd June 2014 by Seb Feast
Today I spoke to Richard, a man who has been volunteering for ASpire since 2007. We invited Richard to the office today because it’s Volunteers’ Week, and I wanted to hear about volunteering directly from someone who does it. He is one of our longest-standing mentors so he has a wealth of experience with the service and is well informed. Richard is also part of ASpire’s steering committee as a mentor representative, where he can draw on his experience to help with decisions that the committee makes.
Richard began volunteering before he retired, when he was working at Brighton University. In our conversation he noted how different it is giving one-to-one mentoring compared to lectures in front of full halls of students – when I asked what he enjoys about volunteering Richard said “It’s very direct.” He also told me how it feels to know you’re making progress with a service user.
“You think, ‘Yeah, that happened because of me.’ It’s a really good feeling.”
As an organisation we know how much of a difference our volunteers make, but I wanted to hear Richard’s opinion on his own impact and the importance of volunteering. We talked about the difference between paid work and volunteering, where he mentioned how paid work is always measured to a value. We noted how different mentoring is to that concept, where it’s actually very difficult at times to measure your progress.
“You can’t quantify it, you just know. Any attempt to quantify destroys what we’re really trying to do.”
Richard explained how there are so many important factors of volunteering that you can’t pick just one – “it’s a multifaceted thing.” He said that the volunteer benefits as:
“You broaden out, you get more grounded because you’re talking to a wider range of people.”
For service users it’s the human contact with someone trustworthy – Richard discovered that keeping regular contact is beneficial to his mentee. This clarifies the importance of the one-to-one environment, as trust is built easier in these relationships and the ability to focus on one person is beneficial for both parties. Richard stated that it takes a long time, but eventually you notice that a difference is being made.
“There was a point where I really just felt we were getting there. I just thought, this is an emotion I’ve never had before and I’m not quite sure what it is!”
As well as talking about mentoring and volunteering, we spoke about ASpire as a service. Richard noted that ASpire is brilliant, and he also said that:
“At every stage … it’s very much human based. You know, it’s small enough to be responsive to people’s actual needs.”
As a small charity, Impetus and our services do have the freedom to create that personal environment – he and I agreed that this is important. One final thought from Richard on the topic of volunteering was this:
“If we had a society where the people who could gave one hour a week, it would make a big difference.”
Volunteering is incredibly important, and we want to thank all of our volunteers this week. Hopefully by giving examples of a few of our many volunteers we can do that while demonstrating the impact they have on our community. It was great talking to Richard today, I learnt a lot by looking at the perspective of an actual volunteer – and I hope that others can learn something from Richard too. Thank you, Richard, for giving your time to talk to me and for continuing to be one of ASpire’s wonderful mentors.
If you want to volunteer for ASpire or another Impetus service, visit our volunteer page.