Kerry: I’m a volunteer mentor and I’ve been doing it with Children Heard and Seen (CHAS) since January 2022.
‘How did you find out about CHAS?’
K: I’m a writer and theatre maker and I was researching my current play, and it’s about parental imprisonment so I was researching charities that support children currently. That’s how I came across them, and the rest is history really.
‘What do you think are the benefits to the child you support?’
K: I feel that the benefits are to have someone to listen to them that’s outside the family. I think that it’s really important to have someone on the outside that can give them advice about that emotion that can be attached to it (having a parent in prison), without them feeling that they can upset anyone. Also, I experienced it myself, my parents were in prison when I was a teenager so it’s being able to chat with someone that knows what it’s like and what they’re experiencing right now.
‘What do you get out of volunteering?’
K: For someone who has experienced it themselves I kind of feel like it’s gone full circle. What I get out of it is helping people and using my experiences for good. I’ve also got a friend out of it. Me and my mentee get on so well, and it’s just fulfilling – helping someone.
‘What is your favourite memory as a mentor?’
K: It’s actually quite simple, we went to Nando’s once and it was grand. We met up for a coffee and we were just chatting about food, and we came to the conclusion that Nando’s is pretty sick. So the next time we met we went for a Nando’s. It was so nice as it was the first time we properly bonded and we had a chat and a laugh. So yeah I’d have to say that one.
‘Do you feel supported by CHAS?’
K: If there are any problems they are literally an email away – and guarantee they will reply straight away. Also, what I really like is how they always ask about my wellbeing and make sure I’m ok as well. So I’d say they’re really supportive.
‘What do you think makes a good mentor?’
K: I think two things make a really good mentor. The first one is allowing the young person to choose what they want to do. Asking ‘what can we do to support you?’ ‘What’s the best for you?’ If they want to eat pizza and just have a chat, that’s cool. It’s giving them the agency that they may have lost in other parts of their life. The second one is just listening. It doesn’t have to be listening to the deep stuff all the time – it could be listening to what they ate for dinner or what they’re doing at the weekend. You’re still giving them support by just listening to them.
‘What would you say to someone who’s thinking of becoming a mentor?’
K: I would just say do it. At the end of the day, whether you meet up with them once a week for an hour or have a call with them once a week or every couple of days, in the grand scheme of things it’s a tiny part of your life. However, it’s a tiny part of your life that means the world to them and makes a difference.