I have always loved working with children and I hope that I have some positive impact in their lives. I knew that I had a great volunteer opportunity when I read the Family Care Network’s (FCNI) mentorship request online. It had my name written all over it!
My initial meeting with my mentee was not what I expected. My first impression was that she was scared and very apprehensive. She refused to come into the living room where I was sitting along with the FCNI contact person and the mentee’s grandmother. Instead, she sat on the floor in the family room with her head buried in the couch. I gave her some time to be alone while I chatted with her grandmother and her FCNI social worker. I then went into the family room and she still was not receptive to me. She refused to even look at me. I talked to her even though she made no eye contact. I told her my name and that perhaps we could do something fun next time we hung out. She looked at me and then looked away. I understood that as a child receiving supportive services, in her eyes I was yet another stranger entering her life.
Since that initial meeting ten months ago, my mentee and I have developed a wonderful relationship. While she is not an overtly affectionate person by nature, as confirmed by her grandmother, over time, she has come to hug me when I’m leaving a visit and has told me that she looks forward to seeing me. I am so pleased that now when we cross a street, she lets me hold her hand, no longer pulling away from me. Her grandmother says she is more confident and outgoing. She is also now on a soccer team which means so much to her and I feel that this has contributed greatly to her increased confidence.
I saw another example of a positive change in her recently, when we were at a grocery store. In the parking lot, my mentee noticed that a woman exiting a grocery store had an item fall out of her cart. She pointed this out to me and asked, “What should we do?” I said we should do what a kind and caring person would do. So my mentee picked the item up and we walked up to the woman as she was loading groceries in her car. I did the talking and explained that my mentee wanted to make sure the item was returned to her. The woman talked directly to my mentee and told her what a wonderful and thoughtful thing she did. I could tell my mentee was pleased and later she said to me, “I bet I could do the talking next time.” I told her that I knew that she could!
My mentee and I have done many different activities together. We have been to the SLO Children’s Museum and the aquarium in Avila Beach. We make regular visits to Woods Humane Society. Both of us are avid animal lovers and we go to Woods to spend time with an animal my mentee chooses. We also make the rounds when we’re there, and talk to all of the other animals. It is so nice when we return to see that the animals we saw on our previous visits are no longer there because they have a new home!
My mentee and I have been to the Paddock Zoo and we've gone to Cayucos to share a snickerdoodle cookie at the Brown Butter Cookie Company. We have gone to a few movies and we like to wander into the shops in downtown SLO just to browse. Special times are when we share a meal before I bring her home. This is our time to really chat. My mentee has opened up to me about little, but important things to her – school, sports and things going on at home.
I feel so energized and invigorated when I spend time with my nine year old mentee. I look forward to our time together and she brings the “inner child” out in me. So far the mentorship experience has been truly wonderful!
We are thankful for Pam, and during National Mentor Month we celebrate the many ways that she and all of our mentors and tutors deeply impact the lives of children and youth at Family Care Network. If you are interested in becoming a mentor or tutor for a child who needs your support, please visit our website at FCNI.org/get-involved.