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Thank You BCF

Starting Point would like to thank acknowledge the Berkshire Community Foundation for supporting us and our work.

BCF is a foundation that raises funds for local charities and groups and equips them with grants to help build a stronger and fairer Berkshire.

First supporting Starting Point in 2015,  BCF has supported our project over 3 years through mulitple grants around areas such as youth volunteering, recruiting mentors, project development and general running costs.

However, BCF is special and unique when it comes to bid writing and project shaping. They are very relational in their communications around applications and reports. They also hold an annual symposium which is a brilliant networking and equipping event for multiple charities across the county.

Without BCF, Starting Point wouldn’t have had the means to mentor over 120 young people in the local area and battle the root issues regarding unemployment.

Thank you BCF!

“I have been privileged to witness first-hand the very real and transformative impact BCF’s support has had on the lives of local young people.”

Sam Lloyd – Starting Point Project Manager




My Story – Calum Harbor – Part 1

Hi, I’m Calum. I’m a current mentee and volunteer at Starting Point. I help with Starting Point’s social media and community journalism. This is my story.

We all need help. Sure, we like to think ourselves independent, but sometimes we need to realise that we cannot do everything ourselves. Take driving for example. Try doing it yourself the moment you get behind the wheel, and you’ll quickly find yourself lost and making mistakes that a driving instructor could easily rectify.

I was like that, both during my education days and after. I refused to ask for help, preferring to work out the answers myself even if they were wrong. When I left college, I felt lost and confused, not knowing what to do with my life. This began a spiral of anxiety and low motivation. With my parents doing everything for me, and living a life without my friends in the picture, I lost my motivation for searching for jobs. My family tried helping but I pushed back.

I hit a low point. I suddenly looked back at my past three and a half years, and realised I was lonely. Being unemployed and volunteering at a shop where the majority of fellow volunteers were older people, people who were sixty years or above, I didn’t develop the friendships I needed: friends I could hang out with and have a great laugh, maybe go around each other’s houses and watch Netflix. Employment would have helped greatly because that’s how you meet new people, but my anxiety and low motivation stopped me.

My family saw how unhappy I suddenly was and decided to act. With my permission they contacted Starting Point.

Being my nervous self, I was worried and anxious about the meeting. The meeting went better than I could have hoped for. Thankfully my sister came with me and there were cookies too, so at least I had company and comfort food. During the meeting we discussed various things, such as my personality and future goals. I left happy and positive. Another meeting was scheduled the following week in Starbucks and I went by myself. Over the next two or three weeks we worked on my CV and made it look impressive.

They quickly paired me up with a mentor. Having earlier filled in ‘Get To Know You Questionnaires’ about ourselves, we read out our answers. Some areas we were similar, others far apart, but overall Starting Point had found a good match. We started meeting at the local Costa Coffee every week afterwards.

The mentoring hit a slight bump. I felt we were moving too fast. I handed in my CV into Costa Coffee. My anxiety suddenly hit fever pitch. It took over. I found myself dreading them calling. Maybe offering me an interview. My stomach felt like a butterfly sanctuary. My mind was taken hostage. I found myself unable to concentrate on things properly. Would I have taken it if they asked? Yes. But I was still worried. Thankfully my mentor saw this and we decided to slow down and strengthen my confidence.

Now with a better understanding, my mentor and I planned to increase my soft skills, personal skills you can develop rather than learn. That’s what great about Starting Point. They understand you. They know people do things differently and not at the same time. They’ll happily mentor you until you feel ready to go solo and give you the pushes needed to make that happen.

After a while, we ended the soft skills and focused our sights on jobs. My mentor gave me the idea of looking to apprenticeships and I suddenly came to the conclusion of what I wanted to do: journalism or marketing, because I love writing literature such as blogs and novels. I contacted my local hospital radio and now volunteer on Saturday nights. Starting Point also gave me another major boost to further my goal. They set up a meeting with Reading Voluntary Action, them offering me a role as a community journalist at their awards night.

Having missed the opportunity for apprenticeships, I started volunteering at Starting Point in a social media and journalist role.

To conclude, Starting Point and the whole mentoring experience have opened up my eyes to things I closed them to. I told my mentor last year I wanted something to change within the year. That has happened. I might still be unemployed, but I now have a goal, more confidence, and more experience with certain skills. Without Starting Point, none of this would have been possible. They helped me when I needed it most. They’ve been nothing but supportive and encouraging.

My mentor hasn’t given up and they’ll ensure I stand tall, because when everything looks bleak and the darkness feels suffocating, something comes and provides hope.

Starting Point is that something.

Written by Calum Harbor
Starting Point Mentee and Community Journalist

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









Meet the Project Manager

Sam Lloyd is Starting Point’s Project Manager and has been at Starting Point since July 2016. Here he gives a short interview about his role, the highlights of his work, and his own interests.

What the role involves:

“In a nutshell, I oversee the running of project. This includes recruiting and training mentors, meeting and matching the young people, monitoring and supporting each mentoring match. I also manage the budget, connect with businesses and other services and strategically plan for the growth of the project. I am also a mentor to young people not yet ready to match to a volunteer.”

Rewards of the role:

“Seeing the lives of local young people transformed. What makes me love my job is knowing that we are not just supporting young people find a positive destination, but we are seeing the direction of their future change course.”

Highlights/Best bits:

The highlight is always at the end of mentoring, looking back with a young person at how far they have come and seeing them beam with pride in what they have achieved – Whatever that may be.”

Why volunteer at Starting Point?

“To come alongside someone, take a genuine interest in them, and support them as they journey through a difficult yet crucial stage in their life, is such a simple and easy thing to do. Yet it has a transforming impact.”

Typical day of work:

“Every day looks completely different as I am always meeting different people. This may be a mentor, a young person, a manager at a business, someone at school, another community group. I enjoy the excitement of each day being different and meeting people I would have never met otherwise.”

Hobbies and interests:

”I enjoy playing guitar and writing songs. I watch and play a lot of football. I have a son aged one so my favourite hobby is playing with him.”

Sam’s dream for Starting Point:

“I hope to grow Starting Point here in Reading without losing our relational approach. I also long to develop the project to a point where it can be replicated in other town across the region so that more young people can have access to a mentor who can journey with them into education, employment and training.”

New Website!


No, not the ice cream van.

Our new website is here and has been redesigned with the help of our amazing volunteers to give you Starting Point! Here we will celebrate the work of our volunteers and share stories from across our community.

We hope these changes will raise awareness to Starting Point and the transforming impact mentoring has on the lives of local young people.

Over the next couple of months we will have an increased presence on platforms such as Twitter and Facebook with news about us and those who support us.

Keep your eyes peeled for regular blogs that are on opportunity to:

  • Tell the stories of our young people.
  • Celebrate the work of our volunteer mentors
  • Introduce key supporters of Starting Point in our community
  • Give updates of news and events

In the meantime, why not get to know our project manager?

Sam – Project Manager

Or you could go and find that ice cream van. Either way, we’re sure you will not be disappointed.