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You Make A Living By What You Get. You Make A Life By What You Give

I had always felt that I needed to "make it" before I could start giving back. but over the last year I've been a mentor to a 9 year old boy called Nathaniel who had been excluded from school and - cliché I know - it's been one of the best experiences of my life. That's the honest truth.

Why did I become a mentor? Before going into detail, I'd like to share a quote which perfectly captures the reason I took that step.

"Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has a genius, power, and magic in it" - Goethe

I had always felt that I needed to "make it" before I could start giving back. but over the last year I've been a mentor to a 9 year old boy called Nathaniel who had been excluded from school and - cliché I know - it's been one of the best experiences of my life. That's the honest truth.

So often in our 20s we get consumed with our career or making money and are in danger of forgetting there is so much more to life. The time I spent with Nathaniel reminded me of this simple fact. Before mentoring, I wasn't completely happy with where I was - so I wasn't sure how I could help someone else. In fact, through working with Nathaniel, I realised I was focusing on what I didn't have instead of what I did.

After a friend recommended mentoring to me, I decided to register and attend the training sessions and see how I felt. By the end of the training sessions, I was equipped with the skills not just for mentoring but for life; the solution-focused approach is something I now use on a day to day basis. I also made great friendships and felt ready to start.

I was really excited when I got the call from Chance UK to say that they had found me a potential match. I met Nathaniel and his mum for a brief introduction which is where the journey started.

Throughout the mentoring year, we spent time together each week. We would pick a fun thing to do and every activity seemed to be an adventure, from going to a trampoline park to exploring the wonderful performances in Covent Garden. He also got to experience some things for the first time such as ice skating. I changed too and knowing he was watching me meant I always held myself to the highest standards possible.

Nathaniel went from being quiet around me to fully expressing himself, he also started to think more about his actions and focus more on his long-term goals - including importantly getting back into mainstream school. We talked about this each time we saw each other, we worked on reducing his need to impress others. Noticing the positive things he did each week helped him to realise all the positive qualities he has.

I think the mentoring helped Nathaniel to have a positive role model to look to. He also had someone he could confide in and seek help with situations he was facing. During the year, I slowly started to see his behaviour change: he was controlling his temper better, being more respectful to his peers and adults, and was generally better behaved when at school and at home.

Through mentoring, I have seen the world differently and have developed skills for life. I've also played my part in helping a special boy to see himself and the world more positively.

Ross was a mentor with Chance UK: an award-winning mentoring programme which works with primary school aged children to transform behaviour and life chances. To find out more about mentoring with Chance UK please visit www.chanceuk.com or email volunteer@chanceuk.com

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