Amy Winter has taken full advantage of the focus on corporate social responsibility here at Clearbox through mentoring at a local school in her area. Amy is a big advocate for taking time out of her 9-5 to give back to others and wanted to share her experience and the benefits of mentoring. Let’s hear it, Amy!
One of the great things about working at Clearbox is that we’re encouraged to take time out to give back to our local communities. Having a full time job can make it difficult to engage with organisations that also operate during typical working hours, but, if we feel strongly about a particular cause, Clearbox very kindly offers us the chance to get involved as part of our benefits package.
So, every Tuesday afternoon, I volunteer at a senior high school near my house. On Tuesday afternoons during term time, you can find me playing Uno and chatting to teenagers about their lives instead of writing press releases and checking for coverage.
Reach Mentoring works in primary and secondary schools in Armagh, Banbridge, Portadown, Lurgan, and Craigavon providing pastoral care for young people. A school will refer a young person to Reach for a wide variety of reasons: questions of self worth, behavioural issues, anxiety, or difficult life circumstances, to name but a few. The organisation matches each of these young people with a trained mentor who visits the school every week to spend time with them playing games, chatting, and working through life’s issues. Thanks to Clearbox, I get to be one of those mentors.
Reach always makes the process optional for the young people — if they don’t think it’s for them, they have the choice to say no. If they decide to engage with Reach, however, then their mentor will help them to identify areas in their life that they would like to change and help them work through how to go about making these changes. Really, the aim of Reach is to provide each young person with a positive, consistent presence in their life.
Over the course of a school year, the paired young person and mentor will commit to building a relationship that develops trust and creates a safe space for growth. If at any stage the young person decides they don’t want to engage with Reach or their particular mentor anymore, that choice is respected. Reach is an added bonus alongside other pastoral care the school offers (and the young person might get to miss a few periods of maths to make the sessions, which is a good reason to attend in my books).
I love Reach: the work it does is invaluable. There’s no other organisation like it, and I’m so grateful that it’s based in my area. I got involved initially when I was studying for my master’s degree, living at home with my mum, and had a fair few spare hours in the day. Every Thursday morning, I volunteered with Reach at the grammar school I used to attend, and whilst it was mentally and emotionally challenging, it did my heart so much good. It had been a goal of mine for a while to find a way to get involved with Reach again, but it wasn’t until last year that I broached the topic with Clearbox and was sent off with full support.
We can all pinpoint people who made a difference to our lives during our teenage years. Whether they taxied us everywhere, listened to our angst, or helped us pick an education or career path, some of the most significant moments in our young lives were supported by people giving up their time to invest in us — or at least that was my experience. That’s why I think Reach is so important. For young people going through challenges, people like this are all the more important. Reach creates a safe space for these young people to work out the things that are going on in their lives, and hopefully change them for the better.
Reach mentors aren’t therapists or counsellors. What we are is a group of people who are committed to showing up for our mentoring sessions every week, showing the young people we serve that they are intelligent, capable and worthy human beings. It can take a long time for some young people to open up, but hearing someone laugh for the first time in a while during a game of Avocado Smash, or being trusted enough for someone to share something new about their life with you, is so incredibly rewarding.
I still meet some of my past mentees around the town that I live in and I’m still keen to hear about their lives. Mentoring really does make a difference — both for the young people involved and for mentors. It teaches compassion, patience, and integrity, and many other things besides. So, thanks, Clearbox, for supporting me. I’m very thankful.
“Every child needs at least one adult who is irrationally crazy about him or her”