“I think sometimes we’re all so busy with our lives that we forget how important it is to just have someone there to talk to.”

I’ve always enjoyed talking to young people and being in their company, so volunteering as a mentor with Llamau really appealed to me. I was aware that the young people and women Llamau support have come from quite difficult backgrounds and possibly didn’t have family around them. I felt I could offer some sort of support in their absence.

Before meeting the young woman I’m now mentoring, I went through a series of training events. A few were in person but Covid then took the remaining sessions online. I found the training very reassuring. I didn’t entirely know what to expect so it helped to learn more about the backgrounds of some young people and how Llamau offers support. The training around behaviours and boundaries felt really important and made me feel like Llamau are looking to protect both mentors and mentees.

About a month after I finished the training I was paired with a brilliant young woman - Dagmawit. I have an interest in fashion and Dagmawit is currently studying a fashion degree and building her own design business, so we’re a good match.

After an initial introduction through Zoom, we met for a coffee and chat. Dagmawit’s Support Worker came along for the first few meetings to help us both relax into conversation and from then on it was just us.

Initially we were both quite cautious I think. I didn’t want to be too pushy or over-friendly and overwhelm Dagmawit with loads of questions, and I think she felt a bit nervous, but we got through. I really liked Dagmawit and felt keen to continue seeing her. The question really was did she like me enough to meet again, which thankfully she did.

We now meet once a week on Zoom but we'll switch back to face-to-face when we can again one day. Our relationship has developed over time. I’m very mindful of the ways I can help her and she’s opened up a lot about her personal life, which we talk through at her pace. I think sometimes people forget how important it is to just have someone to talk to. If you don’t have a loving family around to support you then it’s important to have someone in your corner, offering encouragement, especially when you’re young.

Dagmawit is very brave and had a lot of challenges but she’s demonstrated a huge amount of courage and determination to get her life on track, which is admirable. She’s very ambitious and despite a lot of setbacks she’s still determined to pursue her dreams. She’s also very funny and self-deprecating and I like her honesty.

Due to my own experiences in life I’ve been able to offer advice to Dagmawit around both her coursework and business plans. She often puts pressure on herself so I’ve been able to help remind her how important it is to find a balance; working together on her priorities and time management.

I’ve definitely been able to get as much out of mentoring Dagmawit, as she has from me mentoring her. I’ve found the whole experience very satisfying and rewarding and it’s been nice to get to know someone outside of the usual circle of friends and family.

If someone was thinking of becoming a mentor with Llamau I’d say give it a go! You don’t need any specific skillset and it doesn’t matter how old you are, you just need to have a genuine interest in helping others.