We know thirty-two children in Camden who need a mentor, and more are being referred to us each month. If you know someone who lives in borough, who you believe would make a great mentor, why not encourage them to sign up for one of our orientation evenings to find out more about what mentoring involves. There are loads of great reasons to mentor a child in Camden – here are our top five:
1. You will gain new experiences
Many of the young people we support lack access to opportunities that most Londoners take for granted, such as going to the cinema, visiting museums, or even just kicking a football around in the local park. Going on a weekly outing with a mentor gives a socially isolated child the chance experience some of the simple pleasures of childhood. But it is not just the young person who accesses new opportunities. Lots of mentors tell us that one of the unexpected rewards of building a friendship with a young person is the new experiences it opens up for them, whether laughing their way through an animated film, switching off from the weekly grind of work to have a run around in the park, or just having a chat with someone who sees the world from a refreshingly different perspective.
2. You can connect with your community
Anyone who loves Camden knows that one of its selling points is diversity, yet many of us tend to socialise only with people similar to ourselves. Mentoring a child in Camden gives you the chance to meet someone you would probably never encounter in your everyday life and gives you an insight into what life can be like for your neighbours in the borough.
3. Volunteering is good for your health
The warm and fuzzy feeling you get from knowing that your actions have made a difference to someone else will be familiar to anyone who volunteers. Now scientific studies have shown that volunteering not only makes you feel good, it actually improves your physical wellbeing. In recent months, two separate studies have concluded that volunteering is good for your health. Hannah Schreier, a researcher at the University of British Columbia, tested a group of adolescent volunteers and found that after 10 weeks of volunteering, they had lower levels of inflammation and cholesterol and lower BMIs than the students who were not yet volunteering. Friendship works mentors regularly cite ‘increased levels of empathy’ as one of the skills they have developed, so it is interesting to note that Schreier discovered, “The volunteers who reported the greatest increases in empathy, altruistic behaviour and mental health were the ones who also saw the greatest improvements in their cardiovascular health.” Read more about her report here.
And it’s not just younger people who reap benefits from volunteering – Rodlescia Sneed, a Ph.D. candidate in psychology at Carnegie Mellon University tested a group of 51-91 year olds over four years and found that those who volunteered for at least 200 hours per year (3-4 hours a week) were 40 percent less likely to have high blood pressure four years later than those who did not volunteer. Read about her research here.
So whether you volunteer in Camden, Islington, or anywhere else, there is every indication that it will be good for your health.
4. You can discover more of your local area
The borough of Camden is home to lots of exciting places. From the open spaces of Regents Park or Hampstead Heath, to the chatter of the Markets or London Zoo, by way of the cultural delights of the British Museum and the quirky exhibits at the Wellcome Collection, there is plenty here to satisfy a diverse range of tastes and interests. If there are places in your local area you have always wanted to visit but never quite get round to it, then planning regular outings with your mentee gives you the perfect opportunity to get out and explore.
5. You will make a new friend
Friendship is at the heart of what we do. Aside from the new places you will visit, the new experiences you will gain, and the new skills you will develop; the time you spend with your mentee is time invested in building a friendship. One of our volunteers was recently asked what’s the best thing about being a mentor. His answer went straight to the heart of what friendship can mean. He didn’t talk about the things he and his mentee do together, nor did he talk about the rewards of seeing the positive impact he has had in the life of his mentee. Instead, he spoke about ‘those little moments of rapport’ that happen when two friends find something that connects them. The novelist CS Lewis described friendship as ‘that moment when one person says to another: “What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”’ That feeling of being understood helps us to feel less alone in the world, and gives us a sense of belonging. And the beautiful thing about true friendship is that it is never a one-way street, so while as a mentor you may have the privilege of watching a child develop their own sense of identity and learning to be confident in who they are, you also reap all the benefits that come with friendship, and you may just end up gaining a lifelong friend.
So there you go – five great reasons to mentor a child in Camden. If this has inspired you to volunteer, fill in an application form and we’ll email you information about our monthly orientation evenings where you will hear lots more great reasons to volunteer as a mentor.
Finally, if you’ve been inspired to volunteer Camden but you know that mentoring is not for you, why not email Volunteer Centre Camden’s matchmaking team at firstname.lastname@example.org . They will be able to suggest loads of great ways that you can support your community through volunteering; so what’s stopping you? Get out there and get involved!