Some time ago, I was tasked to run a youth mentorship programme that was expected to last for an entire school calendar year. Given the duration, volunteers involved in the programme had to be willing to be highly committed. Fortunately, despite my worries about the difficulty of finding such volunteers as the project started, an email blast was sufficient to interest a large number of people.
The first one and a half months into the programme were very intense because we had to be thorough in student selection and volunteer interviews to ensure the commitment level of participants. In fact, during the interviews, we emphasised again and again that it would be a year-long programme. Each volunteer who was accepted would then be paired up with a youth to support them in their development and reach greater heights. Their involvement was critical because staff members like myself could only conduct life skill sessions for a sizable number of youth at one time while the most important part, the one-on-one session, required good and committed volunteer mentors in order for the programme to succeed.
At the end of the programme, the staff members organised a special session with the youths to find out what were some of their takeaways. One youth’s reflection struck me when he said, “I want to grow up to be like my mentor. To be successful, have a stable job and have a big heart to help a youth like me.” I was impressed, and so, I probed a little deeper and asked him how his mentor journeyed with him. He told me that his mentor was kind, patient, understanding, always ready to listen and to guide him in areas he was weak in, such as relationship building with peers. Most importantly for him, his mentor did not talk down to him. I was really moved that the programme had made such an impact for this young person and I was grateful to this mentor.
I was reminded of this when I read a recent report on how youth mentoring programme involving volunteer mentors will become part of a new anti-drug abuse campaign in Nee Soon Central. This is a step in the right direction because my experience has shown that, very often, what a youth really needs is an inspiring role model.
Now, some of us may feel that volunteering is very time-consuming and not worth doing given our busy personal and work schedules. Besides, the result is unpredictable and success is not always guaranteed. Nevertheless, I would still say that if we can, we should seriously consider volunteering our time and energy to help others who are in need. It does not have to be for youths as there are many different ways to volunteer. Most importantly, I learned that a volunteer can always make an impact on someone else’s life, one way or another.
Thomas Goh is part of the Parish Engagement team at Caritas Singapore. He is a fervent Liverpool supporter. He also has a strong passion for photography as he hopes to capture moments that can be passed down from generation to generation.