Volunteers are key to The Door’s success, without them we wouldn’t be able to support so many young people and families every day. Mel and Ben have been volunteering with us for a combined time of 15 years. As part of this year’s Volunteers Week celebrations we caught up with them to see how volunteering has changed during the current crisis.

The keen eyed amongst you will recognise them as two of the ‘faces of The Door’ from our posters, leaflets and social media (most of our “models” are real-life young people, parents or volunteers from The Door family)

Hi both, let’s start with an easy one. What type of volunteering do you do?

Mel – I volunteer as a family support mentor this means I support parents and carers one to one and sometimes I help Sandra with Triple P courses. I normally meet a mum for a coffee every week to offer my support to her and she writes up a diary as we go along.

Ben – I’m a volunteer youth mentor and I’m currently mentoring a young man who I meet up with each week. I take him to the skate park and we discuss his challenges and I support him through them.  This has continued for the past 2 years through some very challenging situations.

How has this changed during lockdown?

Ben – Because of Coronavirus we obviously can’t meet in person as easily as normal, so we have switched to telephone mentoring instead.

Mel – And as well as keeping in touch with our usual mentees we have been helping out with the Mentoring Gateway programme, which is phone support for young people. For me this felt very much out of my comfort zone and I was really nervous to start with because I had never done any youth mentoring before but Ben convinced me it would be ok.

Ben – So now we phone four young people each week, I phone two boys and Mel phones two girls.

That’s great, how does Phone Support work?

Mel – We set a timer to monitor how long we chat for and phone them up.  If they reply we ask them how their day has been going and ask them to score their mood out of 5 at the beginning of the call.  We then chat to them and respond to any challenges they may be facing and try to offer encouragement for all the good things going on.  At the end of the call we ask them to tell us how useful they found the call and score their mood again.  We phone them around the same time each week and Ben and I will make notes for each other so that we can write up what has been going on with each individual.  This is so that The Door can see the type of challenges or breakthroughs that are happening as a result of the sessions. I type these up and email them to The Door.

Ben – Sometimes they don’t answer the phone, especially if the weather is good, they may be doing something else. If they don’t answer we leave them a message and reassure them that we will phone them again the following week.

How does phone support compare to meeting face to face?

Mel – To start with it’s harder to build a relationship without being able to see each other’s expressions and not being able to have a shared experience like a coffee or a walk which usually help conversation to flow.

Sometimes their answers can be very short so you have to have a lot of questions ready to ask to build up a picture of what is going on in their lives. There can be awkward silences but we keep going, and it’s surprising how much you can tell about how someone is feeling their voice.

You’ve been doing this for over a month now, how are you finding it?

Ben –It’s great to see that the young people are holding a conversation for much longer and their scores have been increasing too, it’s really encouraging and shows that a relationship is being formed and that they feel more comfortable.

Mel – I’m feeling less nervous about making the calls which is helping the conversation flow better. I’ve got a way to go before I’m as confident as Ben though. He’s more used to building rapport over the phone as he does this at work. He’s formed a strong relationship with one of his mentees after just a few weeks, the conversation flows well and the young person is even asking Ben how he is!

His score out of 5 the other day for the usefulness of the call was 10!

High praise indeed! Thank you both for taking the time to share your story.

For more information about volunteer roles available at The Door including mentoring and phone support:

Visit thedoor.org.uk/volunteer Email: info@thedoor.org.uk or Call: 01453 756745

You can also sponsor the training of a volunteer through our online shop at thedoor.org.uk/shop/

Mel and Ben’s Story

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