Volunteer Centre Programme: journey of our first mentor
Ian is 2D's senior Volunteer Mentor and coordinates the work of the team of Volunteer Mentors/ Befrienders on the social prescribing project. He is also the inspiration for and champion of the project.
Ian was diagnosed with diabetes whilst still a young man and he acknowledges that he found his diagnosis and subsequent complications difficult to deal with initially. He is a qualified electrician, which he had to give up, is registered blind, and has had a kidney transplant and partial leg amputation in recent years.
Ian accompanied his wife to an interview at 2D (then Wear Valley Volunteer Development Agency) about volunteering in the mid-1990s, and he was inspired to get involved himself. Since then he has not looked back, even through some very difficult times. He is currently Chair of 2D and West Durham Youth and Community Resource.
Ian's story so far:
"Being the inspiration for the project, the role of mentor/mentor co-ordinator seemed a logical first step for me within the CCG/Nesta project. Having one long-term illness and three life-altering disabilities, as well as overcoming the day-to-day issues that these bring means that I have a unique skill set which I can call on.
Although I have had no formal qualifications in mentoring, I have previously tried to inspire and motivate people with similar issues to view their disabilities / illnesses as a challenge to overcome and help make them a stronger individual who can play a vital part in their local community and be a positive role model for others.
At first the prospect was a daunting one and the uncertainty of exactly what would be expected of me by mentees was difficult to comprehend. However, following initial meetings with doctors and practice staff and setting the information guidance sessions in motion, the theory was proved that the initial need for clients was just to have someone to talk to for more than the 10 minutes allocated at the surgery. As volunteering was the thing that had changed my life and given me the focus to enhance my quality of life, it was the ideal basis to use to try and motivate clients to empower them to make their own changes.
When I first met my first client he was struggling with pain as a result of his long term condition as well as being disillusioned by his experiences and the feeling that everyone sympathised with his condition but no-one empathised.
Following our first session in which I relayed my experiences and how I overcame the difficulties I had, he went away very much more positive and his comment was "that's the first time in five years I feel someone has understood what I am going through, and has ACTUALLY understood".
As well as him gaining from the session, I also came away feeling empowered that my experiences can inspire and motivate people to overcome difficulties and boost their confidence.
We continue to have weekly sessions and are currently exploring volunteering opportunities with a view to possible future employment, one of which involves supporting young people to learn skills to enhance their employment prospects.
So as you can see mentoring has a mutually beneficial long term impact and is a much needed 'add-on' to current healthcare provision".
At the time of writing they have met four times. In this case the similarity of Ian's experience has been of considerable help to and motivation for the mentee, and he has given feedback to this effect. Ian has reported that there has been a marked improvement in his mentees demeanour and outlook.
Michele is the CEO of 2D volunteer centre, where she has been working for 15 years. She has been developing a new strand of work around social prescribing and is passionate about supporting organisations in the voluntary and community sector that make a difference and helping people to realise their aspirations.
The Innovation in Giving Fund aims to invest in, support and grow innovative ideas that will bring about a step-change in the giving and exchange of time, assets, skills, resources and money and which have a credible route to being self-sustaining in the longer term.