Reducing Isolation and Loneliness
Story by Sam Deere – Volunteer Mentor Coordinator
It’s now been a year since we set up our Mentoring scheme for young people, and, I’m really proud of what we’ve already achieved in such a short and challenging time.
We set up the mentoring scheme to complement the support provided by Llamau’s Support Workers. For so many of the young people we support who have been homeless, they just don’t have the friendship and family support networks that so many of us take for granted. Often, when they move into one of our supported accommodation projects, it can be the first time that they’ve had a support network they feel they can rely on. Our support is all about ensuring that young people can live independently, but most of us do not live without the support of our family and friends.
When young people move out of supported accommodation, while it’s a really positive step for them in terms of their independence, it can also be quite lonely to begin with. To go from a busy project living with five or six other young people to living alone can be a real challenge. Of course, Llamau’s support doesn’t end once a young person moves out, but we could see that Volunteer Mentors could work alongside Support Workers to help young people to live positively in their communities.
I would say that as a result of the Covid 19 pandemic, the mentoring programme has never been needed more. We’ve seen the young people who we’re supporting feel more isolated and lonely than ever before. Not only do they often not have extensive support networks to help them through such challenging situations, but they also often don’t have the technology that most of us have relied on to feel connected.
A year on from setting up the programme, we’ve now got 20 volunteer mentors supporting 20 young people – and each of them is making such a huge difference to the young people they’re mentoring. Some mentors have been helping with things like homework, exploring local communities with their mentee and even supporting them in setting up a business. Not only do the young people have regular contact with a really positive role model, they’re also engaging in activities that they simply wouldn’t have considered being involved in. Whether that’s bush craft, going for walks or getting their nails done, they’re all feeling significantly less isolated and lonely thanks to our mentors.
Of course, we’re having to be more creative about how mentors connect with young people, making sure that everyone involved is safe and protected from the risks of Covid. We’ve been really lucky to receive funding to cover the costs of additional technology so that young people can engage remotely as well as in person outdoors.
I’m really proud of what we’ve achieved in the year since we set up our mentoring project, and am excited to see what we can achieve over the next year.