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WE’RE RECRUITING FOR A CENTRE MANAGER

Starting Point is an exciting Project that provides mentoring and creates opportunities for young people who face disadvantage. A great opportunity has arisen for an excellent communicator with experience in leading and inspiring a team as they deliver vital support for young people in Reading. We are looking for someone with management experience, skilled in developing local partnerships, strategic in project development and planning and who thrives in establishing and growing effective initiatives that enable transformation in the lives of young people. This role has clear progression opportunities as the project continue to flourish both in Reading and further afield.
The main purpose of the Centre Manager is to manage the Starting Point Reading’s operations in accordance with the project’s values and objectives, and within The Mustard Tree’s ethos and vision. This is a full-time position of 37.5 hours a week (including some out of office hours).

Apply with charity job here

JENNY’S LOCKDOWN STORY

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.

My Story – Calum Harbor – Part 2

Hi, I’m Calum. If you don’t know me or haven’t read part 1 of my story, then I’ll indulge you in a quick recap: I came to Starting Point as a mentee in the spring of 2017 due to a plethora of mental illnesses including social anxiety, lack of confidence and motivation, and possibly depression. They matched me with a mentor and gave me opportunities I could only have imagined at the time. If you’d like to find out more, follow the link here to the first half of my journey.

I’ve chosen to write this second blog about my journey for a number of reasons, some personal and private, others to inspire people young and old – you may choose which of those two categories you call home. So please sit comfortably for the second half of my tale. Ready? Let’s go…

Picture it: Reading town centre, January 2019. I met with Sam (Starting Point’s project manager) and my then mentor, Hannah, for a meeting at Starbucks to discuss my journey so far. We all agreed it was time to change gears – we had worked on my confidence, now it was time to land me a job. This meant a change of mentors was needed. Sam described to me a new mentor who’d recently joined Starting Point, Emma. He believed us to be a perfect fit and set up a meeting for the following week. Whilst it was sad to say goodbye to Hannah, we both knew it was time to move on.

I met Emma the next month. I was anxious about meeting her, but it turned out I had nothing to fear – we really were a perfect match. Whilst she was much more extroverted, our humour was on point and we clicked almost immediately. She was what I needed at that moment – someone who wasn’t afraid to push me, but would also listen and be patient. She was also great at the job searching side, finding me applications and helping improve my CV to include my journalistic and social media skills I gained through doing Starting Point’s feed. This all led to my first interview in almost three years – an apprenticeship for the Maidenhead Advertiser. Whilst I ultimately didn’t get the job, from the feedback they provided, it sounded like I was close.

Two months pass and I’m starting to lose confidence again. Though Emma reminded me how young I was (24 at the time), I was still ashamed of never having paid work though my CV was chock full of voluntary experience. I felt pathetic, a disappointment to myself and my family. Then came a miracle…

I filled out an application for John Lewis in and was lucky enough to land an interview in July 2019. It was half group assessment, half formal interview. I don’t know how I did it – perhaps luck or natural ability and sincerity? – but I got the job. My third interview ever and I’d succeeded. I got the offer the next day and my family were ecstatic. It was like a great weight was lifted from my shoulders. After two years of mentoring, after six years of not feeling good enough, after six years of thinking I would never be employed, someone gave me a chance.

I was due to start my new job on August 5th. I was sad to leave my friends and the comfort of my volunteering job in the Royal Berkshire Hospital, but I was glad to have finally left. I was anxious on my first day at John Lewis, not knowing what to expect. I arrived on that first day and was taken upstairs with a small group of other new employees where Induction would be carried out, introducing me to the John Lewis Partnership and its values. On that same day I struck up a friendship with one of the group, a girl a few years younger than myself.

Throughout my probation period, I was scared I’d fail and be kicked out, back to square one. But that didn’t happen. Instead I became extremely likeable to my colleagues. My floor’s Selling Coach took me aside and informed me it was a pleasure to work with me. I wasn’t doing anything special, just working hard like always and keeping my head down. I also became aware of something my colleague said about me: I don’t run away from challenges. I might get stressed, but I always follow the task through to the end and keep my promises.

When my annual performance review arrived in the following January, my manager told me about the potential he and my colleagues saw in me, calling me assertive and imperative, and that he’d like to get me involved in projects. This was a massive boost to my confidence. At one point I applied for a BBC apprenticeship scheme, my chosen location Cardiff. Though I was unsuccessful, I was never scared of the thought of moving away; I was excited.

My mentoring came to an end by the end of the year, having moved into Amber and then progressing to Green. However, I was adamant not to suddenly disappear from Starting Point. I wanted to continue supporting the project and help it grow. Sam contacted me about forming a group of mentees who could help improve the project, wanting me to eventually lead it, and I accepted. I felt honoured that Sam wanted me to act as a leader, being more of a follower at the time. I don’t know what makes a good leader, as there are so many qualities, but Sam obviously thought I had what it took.

With my new found confidence, and inspired by my friend at John Lewis who was following her dreams of becoming an illustrator, I took the decision to sign up for singing lessons in March. I’ve always held a passion for performing and wanted to try and pursue it. Unfortunately the dreaded subject of 2020 arrived soon after my first lesson. During this uncertain and expanding time period, I received an email from Sam inviting me to become a mentor on the new Advance Mentoring project, helping mentees aged 11-19. Ever since my mentoring ended, I’d always considered becoming a mentor one day, though not for another year or two. I’ve never thought of myself as a particularly good teacher or role model. But Sam came to me himself and that gave me the confidence to sign on. It’s one thing to volunteer yourself – it’s another for someone to suggest you. I now hold the honour of being the first mentee to become a mentor at Starting Point, something I am extremely proud of.

This past year has thrown me new challenges, (as it has all of you) but it has also given me the confidence I needed to succeed. 18 months ago, I was terrified of applying for jobs, lost in hopelessness, and fearful of the future. I won’t lie and say these fears are completely gone. There are some days and nights I feel low and ashamed of my past, a spider’s web of negative thoughts and memories.

But there are positives I focus on: I now have friends to socialise with, knowledge about household products that will come in useful, money to spend on my interests (mostly books), and the independence I’ve craved for years. I’m slowly but surely leaving my comfort zone. My plan now is to save up enough to move out, perhaps even leave Reading, before I’m 30. I have 4 years before that happens. If so much can change in one, I’m sure I can accomplish this.

I plan on restarting my singing lessons and in September will join a local professional acting group to gain the skills needed before applying for LAMDA. If that fails I’ll go into journalism. A few months ago, a stranger I met during my rounds for the hospital radio believed I’d one day be a star. Call it delusional, but I like to believe she could be right. No one can predict the future though – if we could, we might do more harm than good.

Starting Point was a great experience for me and was exactly what I needed: friendly and patient with opportunities to help me find my way. They truly cared and wanted me to succeed. They made me feel valued.

Whilst I wish it hadn’t taken two years, maybe I needed that time to get to where I am today and wherever I’ll be in the future. And to anyone reading this, let my story and journey be the light that guides your path. I managed to pull myself from the abyss with the help of Hannah, Emma, Sam, and dozens of other people. They reached out their hands and I grabbed hold.

I don’t really know how to end this, so I’ll simply end it with a quote I found on the internet:

“Sometimes reaching out and taking someone’s hand is the beginning of a journey.

At other times, it is allowing another to take yours.”

Vera Nazarian

KATYA’S LOCKDOWN STORY

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.

Thank You SEGRO!

We are passionate about thanking those who support Starting Point.

SEGRO have generously given financially to Starting Point through their Centenary Fund which is intended to help young and disadvantaged people into employment. The grant was made possible through the Berkshire Community Foundation. We are so grateful for this generous gift so thank you SEGRO and BCF, your generosity and support will enable the project to reach more young people.

To see how your business can support us please click below.

Contact Us

Sign up to our Newsletter

We have just started sending out quarterly newsletters. Which highlight stories from young people and mentors, as well as informing you on our latest news and updates.

Our next one is to be sent out in the next few weeks so make sure you don’t miss out!

To receive these updates sign up using the form below:

Introducing the Mentoring Toolbox

Starting Point’s Mentoring Toolbox provides resources that enables our mentors to equip the young people they are working with to help them move forward.

Our mentoring is holistic and so we have used Positive Psychology to shape the toolbox – the scientific study of how humans thrive, or those elements that make life worth living! We look to help our young people to develop in all these areas: positive emotions, vitality, engagement, relationships, meaning and achievement. 

If you’re a volunteer mentor click the button below to access the toolbox via our online portal.

Volunteer as a Mentor

Starting Point is a charitable mentoring project passionate about seeing transformation in local young lives aged 11 – 25 through tailored, holistic and relational support. The project meets the young people exactly where they are on their life journey, enabling them to connect with a local mentor, who can provide consistent, reliable practical and emotional support as they begin transforming their future.  During this season of COVD 19, young people need our help more than ever.  Many are scared, confused, and distressed about their future.  Unemployment is at an all-time high.  Many have dropped out of education as the barrier to enable connection is too great to overcome

Starting Point offer a simple yet effective model – local reliable volunteers, consistently mentoring local young people, supported by local businesses, with no wait time to receive support and no time limit to how long support is offered.  This model creates the space required to build genuine relationships, with a tailored and holistic focus.  Our mentors take time to get to know their mentee, taking a genuine interest and helping them grow in areas such as confidence, self-esteem, decision making and aspiration.  The support mentors offer is both practical and social-emotional. 

We are currently recruiting volunteers who can be trained as remote mentors, with the aim to move to face-to-face mentoring when the government allows.  If you would like to be part of transforming a young life in Reading, get in touch today.

Contact the Project Manager Sam Lloyd for more details.

M: 07864040466 | E: sam.lloyd@themustardtree.org

Remote Mentoring

During this period of no physical face-to-face contact, we can offer Remote Mentoring either over the phone, via video chat and/or email for both Aspire Mentoring and Advance Mentoring (see below for criteria).

We tailor all our mentoring to the individual’s specific needs, focusing on practical support, as well as social-emotional support. 

To find out more or to make a referral:

Contact Us

Advance: young people aged 11 – 19 who are at risk of becoming NEET upon leaving education.

Aspire: young people aged 15 – 25 who are not in education, employment or training (NEET)