A banner containing the words volunteer spotlight on a blue background with a photo of Pete.

VOLUNTEER SPOTLIGHT – Pete Fox

16th November 2023

Read about Pete’s journey from retired nurse to volunteer mentor for our Sout Glos team in our latest Volunteer Spotlight Blog. Discover how he overcame challenges and found fulfillment in mentoring young lives.

What drew you to become a volunteer mentor?  

Having proudly been a State Registered Nurse from age eighteen and now sixty-five, retirement is a word I choose not to use. Instead, I prefer to call this period in my life chapter nine. Since I retired, just before Covid, I conveniently did nothing other than the daily routine of learning how to live differently, listening to the five o’clock Covid briefings and going for walks on sunny days, listening to the silence on our roads.

Just before chapter nine (my retirement) in 2019 I was introduced to the ‘fallow-field principle’ by Cindi, a former manager who shared her North American principle of the  ‘fallow field’, a field left to rest and recover from producing crops from the previous years. There may be other metaphors that come to mind, but what resonated for me is when Cindi said “Having planted nothing, nothing is expected, but something always grew in her parents’ ‘fallow field’ after it rained”. Cindi’s first home in the UK was a flat with a balcony, where she also left a ‘fallow’ pot of soil, and planted nothing, but something always grew, one year a “beautiful perennial”. Over the next year, I excitedly watched my ‘fallow field’, having expected nothing volunteering emerging over any desire for future contracted employment, which grew into feeling excited when I discovered 1625 by accident in 2021.

From reading the literature, 1625 felt the right charity to become a volunteer with.

Fortunately, I never faced a tough childhood, nor did our two boys. However, my eldest son experienced a significant childhood learning difficulty. He achieved a Masters degree and is now an Assistant Special Education Needs Coordinator and Safeguarding lead in a Secondary school, where he cares for young people with a range of learning and social challenges. Even a generation apart it’s not been a barrier to mentoring our children or the 1625 young people.

With references and DBS clearance sorted, online mentor training with Sarah from 1625 started in early 2022, a very experienced, enthusiastic and highly knowledgeable facilitator and member of the South Gloucestershire 1625 team. The principle of mentoring young people was similar to listening and supporting nurses through their training. Still, with 1625 there was specific learning required to mentor young people with such challenging starts in life. From my work life, I thought I had experienced most things, but the case studies Sarah presented taught me so much more about the challenging lives some young people are experiencing.

After three training sessions, Sarah suggested she thought I could mentor. I met the young person who unexpectedly brought her boyfriend with her for Sarah and me to meet. We sat around a table drinking tea, and eating cake, followed by Sarah walking with the boyfriend and me with the mentee. Not the start anticipated. I remember Sarah stressing in the training, how important it is to reliably turn up on time as commonly young people have never experienced the commitment of an adult wanting to meet them, because they want to meet them, not because they are being paid to meet them. The round journey was over an hour, and for the next three sessions, I turned up on the day time agreed, never to see my mentee again. I would always text when I arrived but never received a reply, so my first experience as a mentor ended.

Sarah moved on to something new with Max being appointed to the lead role. The next referral that was suggested met with me twice and it felt like we had created the beginnings of a bond, but again he didn’t wish to continue due to a number of factors and we never met again. This was a challenging start for me as a 1625 mentor, totally different from mentoring student nurses.

The challenge was not with the young people, the challenge was in managing and understanding the feeling of rejection in myself, something I have hardly experienced before in my life.

The latest young person I have mentored has engaged really well and we have met nine times. Communication via text is excellent, we meet in the same place, we’re both on time every time and I listen and reflect back for over an hour. They are thinking of being a paramedic, so we are looking to visit an Ambulance Station through a contact I have. He’s always wanted to go to a Safari Park, so we are presently working on achieving both.

Could you be a mentor to a young person? Check out our volunteering and mentoring opportunities here.

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