Time to Give!

Last week our wonderful volunteer Despina told us how she started volunteering on the Back to Life project, which supported young people recovering from mental health issues. As the project comes to an end, Despina tells us how much she gained from the experience.

Meeting my mentee Tasha (not her real name) was a great experience and I am so grateful I was matched so well to someone I would grow to like and feel so at ease with. Fighting my natural shyness and finding strength in my enthusiasm and curiosity I went to that first meeting. I was as fidgety as I can be and, no doubt, bright red, but felt calm and positive.

My mentee and I seemed to be as talkative, inquisitive and friendly as each other and as soon as we started talking, both sighed in relief at how uncomplicated our first conversation was. After the introduction, we were left to our own devices and clicked immediately.  We were lucky to have so much in common and our personalities matched without clashing.

To me it felt like I was meeting an old friend I hadn’t seen in years and discovering their beautiful personality all over again.  Looking back, I believe the reason this relationship started off so smoothly was because our relationship structure  was explained so clearly so we had the nature of a mentoring relationship clear in our minds. There was no confusion as to the interaction between us and very quickly we intuitively understood boundaries and openly discussed them to help us achieve our goals.  

At first, we agreed on and set the goals we wanted to get out of the mentoring relationship, both personal and practical. Later on we tweaked and readjusted those as needed and before we knew it found ourselves having our last few sessions. We had no problem being open about what we would do and not. In our time as mentor and mentee, we planned activities but also had impromptu meets. We walked around parks, rode bikes, must have had coffee pretty much everywhere, visited the Dragon Cafe where we watched poetry, a play, listened to music and made friends, went to museums, exhibitions, made things, ate things, and broke long weeks into digestible chunks, encouraging each other to be honest and express ourselves creatively. Sometimes it was difficult to tell who was the mentee and who was the mentor as I learnt so much from Tasha.

Unexpected life circumstances often stopped us from meeting up, but I feel we managed to pull through and come out the other side. There were tough times and there were times of joy, but none of it would have been feasible without the support of the Back to Life project co-ordinator who was there to help at any time of the day and with any problem we encountered.

Closing our relationship, we have achieved most goals we set out to do, have developed as people, and have seen our relationship get stronger. I feel happy to have been part of Tasha’s life and I feel proud to have been her mentor, looking at the tremendous progress she has made herself, despite what life has thrown at her. I have never met such a mature and strong woman and I hope she never loses her sense of humour, and has all the luck in the world as well as all the puppies and nail varnishes her heart desires!

Tasha taught me to laugh,to be myself, to be positive but realistic, remember my boundaries and not be scared to love life and people around me, even if life situations don’t go as planned. Apart from gaining new skills and valuable memories, through the Back to Life project I gained a dear friend.

Back to Life has now come to an end, but if you are interested in volunteering as a mentor, do take a look at our other mentoring projects.