Training was led by the Volunteer Coordinating Manager ‘L’ at their Northampton offices, on the Billing Road. The room used for training was large with a large table and chairs set up in the middle that could seat around 20 people. There was also a large whiteboard and projector at the front of the room. There were two other prospective volunteers present for today’s training on Mentoring with Catch22. Both were females and of similar age to me. I have renamed the two volunteers volunteer ‘A’ and volunteer ‘S’ for the purpose of my blog. I have also renamed the trainer ‘L’. 'S' has become a good friend of mine over the past two years, which has been an added benefit of mentoring with Catch22!
The training commenced with icebreakers. In a group of three, we participated in various tasks such as introducing each other and guessing which information that we disclosed to each other was a lie or fact. At first, I presumed the purpose of the ice breaking tasks was purely to allow volunteers to get to know each other. However after carrying out these tasks ‘L’ used the icebreakers as examples to highlight factors that we should have been more aware of. She also expressed the importance of being self-aware and aware of other people’s body language during communications.
‘L’ presented a presentation on changes in society which have resulted in a need for Catch22 services. These included changes in education, family, employment, crime and health. For example, there have been increases in absent parent families. There are also health issues as a result of drug abuse (including legal highs), promiscuousness and not protecting sexual health, unhealthy eating and poor hygiene.
At this training session, we were provided with copies of several different policies that we are expected to abide by. This helped me to gain a full understanding of what my role as a volunteer entails to ensure that I do not exceed this role in the future. This includes understanding and obeying boundaries. We were instructed to take the policies home and read through them in preparation for a test on them during the next training session, which was the following day. The policies that we were given copies of included Loan Working Policy, Equal Opportunities and Diversity Policy, Child Protection Awareness, Safeguarding Children and Young People, Confidentiality, Safety Procedures and Safeguarding Personal Belongings. I was surprised to receive so much information to read at home as I was not expecting homework during my training and had organised to attend an event after training with friends. (My town’s annual beer festival.) Nevertheless, I killed two birds with one stone and read the documents while chilling on the grass at the beer festival with a nice glass of wine.
As part of our training, we were notified about Catch22's complaint procedure. We were advised that if we have a problem, we should always approach the Case Worker first. If our concerns are not resolved, we should raise the issue with the Line Manager and then if it continues to be unresolved we should raise it with our coordinator, ‘L’. I had already independently identified Case Workers and ‘L’ as appropriate members of staff to raise problems with. However, I had not previously considered approaching a Line Manager. This was probably because I was not fully aware of staff ranking at Catch22 before this training session.
During our training, we were also taught safety procedures that we must follow before, during and after our meetings with Mentees. We were informed that all meetings must be pre-arranged and logged at Catch22 with the Case Worker so that they remain informed of all meetings. Once the meeting is finished, we must phone the Case Worker to confirm that we have left the meeting safely. We must also arrange a secret panic word before leaving for a meeting that we can use during an emergency phone call with the Case Worker in the Mentees presence. I thought that this was a really good idea for raising the alarm discreetly in an emergency situation. In addition to this, we were instructed to keep personal belongings locked in the boot of our car or on us at all times to prevent theft. These procedures were easy to understand. I could identify the purpose of these procedures easily. For example to protect Mentors and their property. It also avoids temptation for Mentees, after all, we are meant to be supporting them in improving their lives, not encouraging them to commit offences with temptation.
As a group, we identified the boundaries of a Mentor. Some of the boundaries included not being able to introduce Mentees to your friends or family appeared to be obvious. However, I was surprised by other boundaries such as not being able to accept a small present to say thank you. Conversely, it was even more surprising to be informed that this is extremely unlikely as ‘L’ had never known any Mentee to buy staff or volunteers a present. We also identified the different types of advice that we can give as a Mentor, including helping Mentees to set achievable goals. This sounded reasonable to me as there would be no point in setting Mentees goals that were not achievable, based on their skills and opportunities available to them.
Throughout our training, we were informed about the importance of maintaining case notes. This information was presented to us through a presentation. ‘L’ informed us that as a Mentor for Catch22 we would be expected to attend supervision meetings monthly. Attending these meetings has provided me with extra support to help me deal with the pressures of working with vulnerable and challenging individuals, by enabling me to discuss any concerns that I have. Supervision meetings help Catch22 to monitor me to ensure that I am observing the policies I have learnt during training. These meeting also allow staff to monitor whether I am maintaining administration.
As part of my training, I participated in role plays with the other two trainee volunteers. During these role plays, we developed our communication skills. We looked at how small and quick changes in our environment could have a positive effect on communication and the atmosphere. We tried sitting in various positions to help us to identify comfortable seating distances and positions that set the scene so that we do not appear intimidating or distant. We all agreed that the twenty past positioning of the two seats felt the most relaxed and comfortable positioning for communicating. We also agreed that the distance between the seats was essential. If they were too far apart, it made conversation appear distant. If the chairs were too close, it felt intimidating. This has been invaluable for various other roles that I am responsible for, particularly when I am interviewing people.
‘L’ went on to teach us the Jahiri Window theory through a presentation. The aim of this presentation was to improve our self-awareness. We were informed that the Jahiri Window is split into four equal squares to explain what is known by an individual and by whom. The squares are split into ‘everyone knows’, ‘I know’, ‘other people know but I don’t’ and ‘no one knows’.
As a group we also discussed the different types of advice we can give to our Mentees. When giving advice, we must be aware that different people are unalike and do things in different ways. We all accepted that we must always maintain equality and diversity when dealing with Catch22 clients. Additionally, we discussed things such as valuing the other person and being non-judgmental. We also discussed what we thought professional conduct was and how one person’s behaviour can affect how others behave; and therefore how a Mentor’s behaviour can affect a Mentee’s behaviour. This was actually quite a logical concept.