Gavin Webster, 43, is an ex professional rugby player and now a mentor with the charity, abandofbrothers, who are mainly male volunteers working with young (aged 18 - 25) ex-offenders with rites of passage weekends and a mentoring scheme. Dean O'Brien, 26, is on probation and a student, he was also Gavin's mentee. They both belong to Haringey's abob group. Here they tell us about their experiences and a mentor and mentee.
Gavin - I really wanted to get involved and contribute to my community in Tottenham. I was aware that I lacked a deeper connection with a sense of purpose or tribe where I felt I belonged. I was going through a fairly challenging time in my own life so it was a very good time to learn about abandofbrothers.
Mentees usually choose their mentors after the Quest, the rites of passage weekend, they see who they are drawn to. But Dean was given to me. We met for the first time in a coffee place in Tottenham and it was clear that Dean would open up to me. We had a good meeting where he was incredibly honest to me about his background, which was tough and violent.
We also connected over being parents. I have one daughter and am not with her mother. Dean has six children by three mothers and he has difficulties around not being allowed to see some of his children. I totally empathized with this. We were also able to talk about the pain of separation when we weren't with our children.
I really appreciated that Dean turned up, even if that wasn't every time. He was actually leading a chaotic lifestyle around drugs and drink, and so many relationships, so to turn up at all was a massive achievement. His father had left when he was little, his stepdad was violent, he didn't have good examples of men around him. It made me feel sad and I was able to show him that in a soft way.
I'd also challenge him if I thought he was trying to get away with something. But the main aspect of abob's mentoring is to be alongside the young men and make them feel nurtured and to give them a sense of belonging. I hope I did that for Dean.
For me, mentoring him helped me have a stronger connection with the local community. I saw the underbelly of Tottenham and what was going on with young men on public housing estates there. I met Dean's friends. It struck me how little structure they have in their lives.
I admired Dean for sticking with the program and being determined to change his life when he was in such difficult circumstances.
Dean - I went to court to prison for three burglaries, a common assault, and possession of drugs. I got one month's remand and I'm on probation for two years. If I do anything at all wrong in this time, they will send me to prison for five years.
My mum kicked me out when I was 16. I was in gangs and involved in violence. Things were pretty crazy. I didn't have a father figure around ever. And I just got out of hand. I also had ADHD, which was hard for everyone to handle, including me. My mum couldn't cope with me.
I found out about abandofbrothers from the probation service. Then I had a chat with one of the team at Haringey and somehow I trusted what he had to say, even though I had no idea what was in store for me. And suddenly I was in the middle of a forest doing the weekend rites of passage course called The Quest. At one point, we had to allow ourselves to be blindfolded and at that point, I had to trust. That was hard. I expressed a level of anger that I've never expressed before, and I found out techniques for expressing in a way that wouldn't hurt me, and wouldn't hurt anyone else. That was really important.
For me, it was a first to spend time with a group of men in this way, I'd never spent any time with a group of just older and younger men. That was incredible. And we weren't allowed phones either so actually spent time together.
Gavin became my mentor and he is a very cool man. I have a great deal of respect for him. And he lives literally 20 minutes away from me. We share quite a few things. And he really helped me in going for a different way of life and having the confidence to want a lot more from life.
He helped me through some difficult times and he still does. He helps me with relating to people in a positive way.
Through abob, I have discovered that I am worth a lot more than I thought I was. Before I used to spend a lot of time inside, now I am out all the time looking for work or in action in some way. I am studying to fix rails for London Transport. It feels good to be going for a job that I will enjoy.Suggest a correction