Published by Volunteer’s Week
Written by Louise Walsh
Volunteering in our free time is one of those things which everyone thinks about at some point, but something that a lot of people don’t get round to actually doing. Thankfully, in Scotland, adults can take just one hour a week to participate in one of the most easily-accessible volunteering opportunities in the UK with MCR Pathways – a programme which links young people with an older mentor in their area. MCR stands for Motivation, Resilience, Commitment.
When I looked into volunteering opportunities, MCR Pathways hit home for me. No previous knowledge or experience was required: I didn’t need to have children of my own, I didn’t need to come from an educational background, I didn’t need to have a special area of expertise, or be willing to act as a parental figure… I just needed to listen. And everyone can do that.
“I joined the MCR Pathways programme three years ago now, and it’s quickly become one of the highlights of my working week. I’ve seen my mentee grow into an amazing young woman and, best of all, she’s become a close friend.”
Things weren’t easy at first. My mentee was shy and our first few meetings involved me talking for an hour and leaving feeling like I hadn’t made a difference. But when I raised this with my Pathways Co-ordinator, he reassured me that my mentee was enjoying the time we spent together and to keep at it. The support mentors receive from the MCR team is incredible. When you join the programme you become part of one big family where everyone has a shared goal: to give every young person in the city the same outcomes, opportunities, and life chances.
When we first started meeting, my mentee wasn’t sure what she wanted to do after school – and she’s now got three Conditionals for university. It’s been almost 15 years since I went through the UCAS application process myself but I remember how overwhelming it felt, and being there to offer help and support to someone in the same situation is special.
“Leaving work for one hour a week to focus your entire attention on helping another person makes a difference. I work in a pressurised environment, but I find when I come back from my mentee meetings I feel much calmer and can put things in perspective.”
Now that my mentee has finished her last year at school, my Wednesday afternoons will feel a bit empty. However I’m pleased to say I’ve signed back up to the programme and, in just a few weeks, I’ll be inflicting my awful jokes on yet another young person.
So if, like many others, you’ve found yourself spending Volunteers’ Week wondering how you could give something back then I’d urge you to sign up with MCR Pathways. You could be the one to make a difference in a young person’s life – and there really isn’t another feeling quite like it.