February saw the 200th birthday anniversary of one of the world's greatest writers, Charles Dickens. From documentaries across television, global 'readathon'" and special services at Westminster Abbey, the work of the great literary figure has been celebrated and honoured. Dickens being brought into the headlines again comes at a poignant time as much of the themes his books dealt with are, in some shape or form, still troubling our society: child poverty, isolation, and fierce debates surrounding education. Dickens was himself a firm propagator of education and supported many charities which helped educate poverty-stricken children.
Beyond the celebrations, many historians remain doubtful of Dickens' impact on social reform, thus highlighting the ever pertinent question: What difference can charitable work or campaigning actually make?
At Mosaic, this is what we ask ourselves every single day and a recent report from Demos has provided us with answers.
We train and send voluntary mentors from professional backgrounds into schools throughout the country who help children from low income families and ethnic minorities, amongst others, to provide emotional support and help raise their mentees' aspirations and self efficacy.
The report revealed 11 per cent of the secondary school mentees were more likely to desire a place at university having been mentored, and felt their chances of being accepted onto a course rose by 17 per cent as a result of the help they were given.
Children in receipt of free school meals have become more confident about their prospects for finding a job because of the support from Mosaic mentors.
The mentors themselves also noted significant personal benefits arising from mentoring, including: improved communication skills, a feeling of contentment by doing their bit for society and improved personal well-being.
In times of social and economic upheaval it is easy to become sceptical about the impact a small amount of time and effort can have on young people in need of help.
Having recently celebrated the art of Dickens we can also celebrate his message of social improvement and realise that those of us who take the initiative to offer a helping hand are justified in having, in regard to the results, great expectations.