Feb 26 2014

Volunteering with ReachOut UK

ReachOut have been recruiting at LSE for several years now, offering students the chance to mentor young people living in disadvantaged areas of London. Peng Qian is completing a Masters in Finance and Economics at LSE. He shares his experience of mentoring on the ReachOut Junior Mentors Project, helping secondary school pupils develop leadership skills.

I discovered ReachOut at the LSE Volunteer Fair. As an international student, I wanted a way to meet new people and explore London.

The other day, I was trying to think of a topic to discuss with the mentees when I tripped on the stairs, knocking over a big man right behind me! Luckily, I was able to walk away with a wonderful subject to share with the mentees – we trip less if we look where we are going. By sharing my experiences with young people from disadvantaged areas through ReachOut, I want to show these teenagers how they can achieve their goals and fulfill their potential.

Before I met the mentees, I was unsure whether we would have much in common. But of course, they are just like a younger version of me. They love the things I loved. They are working on the same things I struggled with. And they make the same mistakes I made. Once I asked my mentee what would he like to do in the future. He told me he was interested in lots of careers and sometimes felt anxious because he couldn’t make up his mind, which was exactly how I felt before college. Aside from suggesting he talk to professionals in the field and think about his strengths and weaknesses, I also shared some of my regrets about not acting more promptly in my career choices. Of course, not every mentee is unsure about their future career (in fact, a lot of them have a very clear idea). The most important part of mentoring is these little conversations each week where I “pass on” my experiences to my mentee. Though, I soon found the word “exchange” much more appropriate!

After each ReachOut session, all the mentors fill out a feedback form. One of the questions asks us to “Share one thing you learnt about your mentee today”. My answers varied from “he just got a girlfriend” to his opinions on Animal Farm and world politics. That’s right! I found myself learning from my mentee too. As part of our project we are creating a comedy show together. Without revealing too much, I have to say the theme is rather philosophical.

The project has inspired me and showed me a unique way to experience the city. If you want to help others, get to know new people and of course have fun, why don’t you get involved too!

If you would like to get involved please visit www.reachoutuk.org. Alternatively, connect with us on Facebook and Twitter to find out more.

About David Coles

I am the Volunteer Coordinator at LSE. My aim is to help LSE students find rewarding volunteering opportunities, facilitating their personal development whilst contributing to society. Check out the Volunteer Centre @ LSE Careers website for information on how you can get involved.
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