Mentoring Stories – 04

I have been mentoring with Starting Point Aspire for about a year now and I consider it a privilege to be involved with a young person’s life.  My experience so far has given me a great boost knowing I have helped a young man feel better about himself.

Mentoring a young person has opened my eyes to the stresses and challenges young people today face on a daily basis.  Mentoring has given me a focus and kept me thinking about how I can help in widening the options for my mentee which has involved a lot of research concerning anxiety and eating disorders.  Mentoring a young person encourages you to challenge your own perceptions and ideas.

So far I have helped him overcome some emotional and practical issues. We have met up safely during the pandemic and had long walks in the cold eating sausage rolls!   During this time we have discussed all sorts of issues including education, relationships, eating disorders, anxieties, the benefit system and VARS use in the Premier League! We respect each other’s views and standpoints but know we can challenge each other’s ideas and football team choices! We have built a good relationship and whilst we don’t always agree we both know that ultimately we can discuss and think about the options and which is the best course of action. 

I have seen him grow over the year and it gives me a great deal of pleasure to see the now confident young man he has become.  He now has the confidence to apply for jobs and benefits.  He is still not the best at accepting ideas, like staying in education next year,  but he is aware that it is his decision in the end and only he can make it.

I truly believe that in giving a little time to a young person you both grow and become the best people you can be!

Anyone considering mentoring should apply – mentoring has an enormous effect on the mentee but also gives you an increased feeling of self worth, immense satisfaction and keeps you young!  Young people look at the world differently and this is refreshing.  I am really happy that I decided to volunteer with Starting Point.

Mentoring Stories – 01

I had always wanted to do some variation of volunteer work but this struck me particularly hard during the pandemic last year. As I have lived in Reading for the majority of my life I wanted to do something that would have a positive benefit on our community specifically. I’ve been lucky enough to benefit from a loving family and tertiary education but so many young people in Reading do not have those experiences. 

After doing some research about volunteer groups in Reading, Starting Point looked like a great choice as not only would I be helping someone else, but also learning new skills myself. The whole team are incredibly friendly and set you up with all the tools you’ll need for mentoring, including formal training. You also have access to all the other mentors which is a lovely community to share with and learn from. 

I started with my mentee in November 2020 on the Aspire programme and it’s been very rewarding (and at times challenging)! Just being able to build a friendship with your mentee is such a great feeling and achievement. I’m not only able to support him but I’m also learning a lot about myself and what’s important to me. 

It’s certainly pushed me outside of my comfort zone but ultimately knowing I am bringing value to someone else’s life is incredibly rewarding. The Starting Point team are always there to help you and I’m really looking forward to the next few months with my mentee. If you’re looking to give back to the community and feel you could support a young person during a challenging time in their life then I’d definitely recommend exploring the options at Starting Point. 

If you’ve been inspired by this story, find out more about mentoring with Starting Point here:


These last few months in general have been a time of uncertainty, stress and worry for everyone in their individual ways. For myself, it was a time of working from home and living alone, so could go weeks without seeing a single person.

For my mentee, her responsibilities changed dramatically – living with a vulnerable adult which meant isolation for four months and counting…

Although our circumstances were drastically different, we still had the common ground of feeling a lonely and overwhelmed. In that time, my usual mentoring ‘style’ changed – No longer did our conversations focus on applying for jobs and CVs, but instead all about our wellbeing and mental health.

Face-to-face mentoring stopped and weekly phone calls commenced, and since March we have spoken on the phone almost every week, catching up on how we are feeling and making sure we’re accountable to one another. My mentee knows she can talk to me and ‘vent’ on a weekly basis if she wants, but she has been a huge support to me to when I was lonely during lockdown.

This lockdown has taught me that mentoring isn’t solely about ‘the work’ but also about the relationship and we have built a much better relationship as a result.


Fear, uncertainty, confusion are just some of what my mentee was experiencing when COVID hit and lockdown was enforced.  Our mentoring was focused on trying to get out of the house and trying to take steps to get back into school and slowly interact with society again. Anxiety and panic attacks stopped my mentee from venturing out, going to school, seeing friends and now all the work she had been doing and making great progress just stopped. What now? Where do we go from here? What to focus on?  We had to go back to the drawing board and relook at how she wanted to proceed. It was a challenge to navigate at first, but then we started to look at what she could do, what she could influence, how she could choose how to think and choose what feelings she could focus on. Suddenly she became more grounded and realised there were certain things she could move forward with. She focused on what she could do for school and got in touch with her teachers and tutors. It turned out because exams weren’t going ahead this year, she was able to submit all the work she had been doing with her tutors whilst not being in school and that would be enough evidence to get her GSCE’s which she never thought possible. This really shifted her whole outlook and she saw hope and gained motivation to focus on getting herself ready mentally for school in September. The sessions from there on in have been great and just amazing to witness the transformation and to see her start trusting herself.
My mentee started an accomplishment journal where she notes down all the small and big things she achieved through lockdown so that she can look back and see that when life pulls the carpet from under you that she can trust that she is resilient  and that it resides within her. That she can get through this and anything else that comes her way. It is just a matter of breaking things down, taking deep breaths and remembering she can choose how she shows up and that she has the power and the strength within her to get through anything.

A Volunteer Mentor’s Blog – Emma’s Story

I was inspired to write this, my first ever blog, by my mentee who is a regular contributor to the Starting Point Facebook pages and twitter feed. For me, this is exactly what Starting Point is about – inspiring each other. 

As a mentor I get a lot out of our relationship. In a previous role I managed a large team and genuinely relished the challenge and opportunity to invest in and develop people. Career progression meant I graduated from a role managing people to a role managing product. Over time I realised how much I missed this human element and as such, use Starting Point to supplement my career goals. It also helps me keep a hand in management should I ever wish to return to a people focused role in the future. 

I found Starting Point through a simple Google search and went along to Mentor induction training where I first met Sam, the Project Manager. This was my first exposure to Traffic Light Mentoring, a way to track progression in the mentoring cycle – with Starting Point you are fully supported with the tools you need to be a great mentor. It was a revolution for me that contributing / giving back didn’t just mean money but could mean time. Volunteering with Starting Point is flexible, all mentoring sessions are agreed direct with your mentee, and you can make such a difference in an hour a week. Regular sessions where you share ideas and review the week are a key part of the structure. You should be willing to prep and invest in this time – and you’ll want to – because you do really get so much out of these sessions. 

I see my main role as a mentor to encourage and instil confidence with a little bit of practical advice along the way – the hard work is really done by the mentee! Throughout my time with my mentee we have worked on their CV, submitted numerous online applications and prepped for interviews. This is alongside discussing the latest Game of Thrones and our favourite authors, plus what’s going on in the news this week. As a product of these sessions, my mentee has got to a final stage interview AND hot off the press, has just received their first job offer. I am so proud to see what mentee has achieved and am thrilled to have been just a small part of their success. 

Based on this experience, I am so bought in to Starting Point that I now work with them on their LinkedIn page and am working with the team to build a plan to approach local businesses and engage them with Starting Point. As a business there are so many ways to get involved, whether that is to donate, provide work experience opportunities or support those who wish to volunteer themselves and become mentors. It is amazing to be so involved in a local project where you can share in their ambition and goals and genuinely make a difference to the local community.

In terms of mentoring, I genuinely look forward to our sessions and would encourage anyone with a nurturing nature to get in touch with Starting Point. You could make a difference, and even make a friend. 

Meet A Mentor – Hannah

What do you think of when you see the word MENTOR? Do you think of a young or older person? A man or a woman? Friendly and open, or strict and determined? Meeting a Mentor will hopefully answer these questions and allow you to get to know our mentors.

Hannah is a relatively new mentor at Starting Point, having started back in May 2017, meeting her first mentee the following month. She came to know about Starting Point through Sam, our Project Manager, as they go to the same church.

Hannah is originally from Devon, and moved to Reading over three years ago. She wanted to get involved in the community and meet and get to know new people. Ultimately, Hannah wished to be helpful and do some good in Reading whilst working at UCEM as a Marketing and Communications Manager.

Her father was a great inspiration for becoming a mentor. He had a similar organisation like Starting Point set up back in Hannah’s hometown and was very active in the community. But he wasn’t the only one who has inspired her over the years. A lot of people have given Hannah the motivation to help others and improve their lives.

Hannah believes that mentoring offers young people the chance to be listened to and express themselves, someone who will not judge them and will give them their full attention, and give them the resources and skills they need to succeed.

In terms of Starting Point itself, Hannah says that Starting Point is relaxed and has no schedule for its mentors and mentees, giving them more freedom, allowing the mentor to take a bigger leadership role. Hannah also believes Starting Point is great at supporting both mentors and mentees in whatever they need. It also helps that the mentors get together frequently so ideas can be shared and used in future mentoring sessions.

When preparing for her interview, Hannah took the 16 Personalities test, coming out as an ESFJ-T, known as the Consul. This means Hannah is a caring and social mentor, someone who is eager to help out and likes to be around people.

By mentoring a young person, Hannah has learnt perseverance and consistency. Her highlights include:

  • Seeing her mentor’s confidence grow through understanding his personality (through the 16 Personalities test);
  • Seeing her mentee start new voluntary posts;
  • Her mentor passing his theory test and doing really well in his driving lessons.

Hannah’s message for future Starting Point mentors is that it is good to get to know people in real situations, the mentoring is about the mentees, and that mentors shouldn’t expect change to happen straight away, though mentors can change just as much as mentees.

Hannah’s hobbies and interests include hanging out with people and being social, reading books, and watching television programmes, her favourite being the American series Newsroom.

Our Volunteers

“To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world”

Dr. Seuss

Here at Starting Point our volunteers are our backbone. They are the heroes who listen to young people and support them through the good and bad times. Volunteers happily give up their time to ensure young people have somebody they can rely on and talk to about the difficulties they encounter. They do not ask for a thank you. They do not ask for a reward. They are not selfish and will not turn their backs on young people.

Since Starting Point began in 2012, we have had over 60 volunteers. The majority of our volunteers are local to the Reading area, mentoring local young people across the borough.

So what does volunteering at Starting Point involve?

Mentoring at Starting Point involves meeting up with a young person (a mentee) once a week. This could include anything, such as searching for jobs and writing a CV, to activities aimed at boosting a mentee’s confidence. Even if you just talk about what’s happened during the week, you will be increasing a mentee’s social skills. A lot of mentee find they have nobody to talk to, so you could make a massive difference in their lives.

However, Starting Point doesn’t only offer mentoring. We have volunteers who help with administration, media and design, and photography.

So do you or someone you know have something to offer Starting Point? You don’t need to be Superman or Wonder Woman. You just need to be kind, compassionate, and have the time to get to know a young person and understand the aspects of their lives.

If you can do this and want to learn new skills, then click below to get in touch.
Contact Us

Here’s what our volunteers said about volunteering with Starting Point:

“Volunteering a small amount of time once a week has the potential to change someone’s life.”

“The best thing about volunteering is seeing the mentees I work with grow in confidence.”

“I volunteer with Starting Point because I want to be able to help young people who are less fortunate than myself.”

Written by Calum Harbor
Starting Point Mentee and Community Journalist