Joanne – Staying Connected through Virtual Mentoring

Our mentors are bridge builders, helping young people realise their talent and bridging it with opportunity. Each young person has their own challenges but, with patience and understanding, our mentors are able to help them open up and build their confidence.

Joanne in South Lanarkshire had only been mentoring J* for a short time before lockdown was announced. In their six sessions, they had just begun laying the foundations for a trusting relationship. Despite this, Joanne had already started getting a sense of his personality.

She told us, “My mentee is quiet and reserved – definitely not one for opening up about their feelings easily. But get him talking on his favourite subject and you’ll be there for hours though!”

Though new to mentoring, Joanne is committed to building a line of communication with J, even when meeting face-to-face isn’t an option. Through the first few weeks of lockdown, she sent emails through her Pathways Coordinator to him at least once a week, even if she didn’t always get a reply.

Joanne told us, “I knew it was up to me to keep the communication going even if it was one-sided. When he did respond I was over the moon!”

When MCR announced the launch of virtual mentoring, Joanne was eager to take part. The two began speaking over voice chat, and through their calls her mentee slowly began lowering his barriers. They shared their experiences of lockdown and discussed how it was affecting him. They chatted about his school concerns, as well as about topics like video games and how to keep in contact with friends. J lives with a large family, and he shared his frustrations about lacking alone time and space.

Joanne helped him organise his assignments and deadlines so he could keep on top of his work. She also gave him the confidence to talk to his teachers about his challenges with some of his school work.

“When prompted he decided he could raise the issues himself with his teacher.”

A highlight of both their weeks, these shorter, casual calls worked well for both of them, fitting with their relationship and their schedules. In their meetings prior to lockdown, J dealt with some anxiety. However, these calls proved to be a turning point and he even asked Joanne if they could make sure to do their calls every week.

While lockdown is still proving to be a challenge, the two have reached a new depth to their relationship since they began virtual mentoring.

“There are upsides and downsides to our current normal, but we’ll make it to the other side together.”

Joanne knows firsthand that maintaining communication during this time is difficult. When asked what advice she would give to other mentors, she told us,

“Definitely keep up the communication even if it is one way.  Don’t be disheartened with no response.”

Virtual Mentoring with MCR

Like everyone else, the MCR Pathways team are itching for everyone to be able to safely return to their normal daily routines. Over the coming months we’ll be looking for more mentors in South Lanarkshire and beyond to support young people returning to school.  We continue to be inspired by our mentors who have adapted brilliantly to the circumstances, continuing to provide a source of support. When asked about her thoughts on everything turning back to normal, Joanne said:

“I’ll be very glad to get back to having body language to help me steer a conversation. It will also be good to know my mentee is back to some stability. But if you can meet virtually you should definitely do it.”

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