It’s a bright and sunny day in London and I’m on my way to meet Michael and Dan at a café in Angel.
Mike and Dan have only been matched for a month and a half as part of our volunteer mentoring project The Switch, but the relationship has gone so well that we received this message from Mike’s mum a couple of days ago:
“I just wanted to say from the bottom of my heart, thank you so much! My son is smiling for the first time in months. I now feel positive he will get better.”
The message was so nice that I wanted to hear more from Dan and Mike. They were happy to meet me for a chat, so I’m tagging along to one of their meetings. At the café I meet two young men sitting outside enjoying the sunshine. Dan has come straight from the office and is on his lunch break, and Mike has ventured out to enjoy the weather. They have decided to divide their time together so that they meet several times a month rather than a couple of hours in a row, and are therefore used to meeting in Dan’s lunch break. Dan laughs and says this is to avoid Mike getting “too bored of his company”. Mike smiles and they say they’re venturing out this weekend on a long session, so they’ll see what they prefer. So far, a mix seems to be working well.
Before being matched, Mike didn’t leave the house much and sorely missed having someone to discuss football with. Throughout the meeting football banter is highly present, with Mike an ardent Arsenal fan and Dan Leicester; they’re not in competition for the league title, but enjoy discussing games and players. “Luckily I don’t support Tottenham or Chelsea,” jokes Dan. Mike laughs and says the mentoring relationship might have been different if he did.
I quietly applaud the excellent matching skills of Rachel, the project co-ordinator, while picturing Mike matched with a hard core Tottenham fan and the heated discussions that could follow. Mike is a goalie and Dan has never given up on his dream to become a Leicester player so the cards were ripe for a good mentoring relationship. They are going to play football one of these days and I think it’s going to be a good match.
Mike is a bit shy, but when asked what he has enjoyed the most he’s a burst of energy and answers “I enjoy every session. It’s brilliant!” So far they’ve met at different coffee shops and gone for lunch in the West End. Their meetings have been loosely planned and consisted of wandering around London talking, but they admit there's also been a lot of coffee. “I’ve never had so much!” laughs Dan.
At their first meeting they sat down and created a list of stuff they wanted to do, with researching colleges, playing golf, going to sports museums, visiting the Emirates stadium and playing football top the list. They also want to go fishing one day and I hope they’re not going to end up catching anything from the Thames. If they do, they assured me they won’t attempt to eat it.
Mike and Dan first met in January. At the match meeting Rachel and Mike’s mother stayed for 30 minutes before getting tired of hearing about football and left Mike and Dan. It was ‘love at first goal’ and it’s continued to go swimmingly.
I’m curious as to what the mentoring relationship has meant for them so far and if they’ve experienced any changes. I turn to Mike; he smiles and with the same energetic enthusiasm says his time with Dan has really changed him for the better. “Although it’s been short, it’s given me more confidence and self-belief”. Mike is also happy that he’s out of the house more: “I’ve got to see things I haven’t seen before, go out more and have someone to talk to.”
Dan says he’s really enjoyed it too and says: “Mike is up for doing everything, so I’ve mentioned a couple of things that I think sound interesting, and that’s what we’re doing. It is great fun; I get to do and see things I’ve wanted to do for years, but never made time for!”
I leave the boys to discuss this weekend’s activities – happy to have been a part of their mentoring relationship for a day.
This is why I love working for The Switch. It’s truly a life changing programme and the change is caused by people like you and I, donating a few hours every month just to be there for someone. Seeing how great they are together has been really inspiring and has made me want to be mentor. Let’s see what the future holds shall we. For now, I’m happy to be a small part of Dan and Mike’s journey together and I can’t wait to hear what they get up to next!
If you'd like to get invoved in The Switch, we'd love to hear from you! Take a look here