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Volunteer Spotlight – I believe the best way to give back is to build relationships with people and offer support!
At GT Scholars, we have a great team of volunteer tutors and mentors who are passionate about helping young people learn, grow, and achieve their goals in life. We have regular spotlight interviews with our volunteer tutors & mentors where they have the opportunity to share more about themselves and why they decided to become a volunteer. Have a look at our latest spotlight interview with one of our mentors, Nadeem. He shares more about why he decided to become a mentor and his experience as a volunteer with GT Scholars.
Why did you decide to volunteer in the first place?
Several things added to my decision, but I would say the driver of this came from my son. He just finished his first degree and was on his way to study for his masters. He was considering teaching as a profession, and we spoke about my career around coaching and mentoring people. During the summer, he joined a charity that ran summer schools for bright teenagers aged 13-14 in deprived communities. He invited me to speak about my profession in Medicine at the summer school. I found this to be interesting and challenging. I enjoy coaching and mentoring, and developing people and found that I could do this by being a mentor at GT scholars.
Tell me about you and what got you to where you are today?
I was born in Uganda and arrived as a refugee in the UK in 1972. I faced many interesting challenges coming in as an immigrant but was given the opportunity of a good education, supported by my parents. Looking at the work both my wife and I did, I realised that the opportunities people are presented with, are the result of the environment they find themselves in. I also realised that I could help people to maximise their potential through my work as a medic and in coaching and mentoring.
Did you have a mentor growing up?
I didn’t have a mentor growing up. I think that I ended up identifying with people I respected as role models or peers, or peers I thought my parents would have described as good company. At the beginning of my medical career, I had mentors and coaches who helped me start in my role. I do believe that there is a huge advantage being on the receiving end of this relationship.
How did your experience with your mentor help you develop into your career?
It was very critical to my career being coached and mentored. I trained to be a mentor in the early 2000s, and during that time, mentoring wasn’t very common and rarely heard of. I found being a mentee a great experience, and it helped make a difference to my career choice as a Medic. Mentoring and coaching is a powerful relationship and tool when it is done well. You have an opportunity to influence people in what and how they think of their environment or their organisation.
How important has support been in getting you to where you are today?
My greatest support has been my wife. I always check back with her on the impact I’m trying to make in a person’s life. I always try to get the best type of support on whatever I want to do professionally. I believe that the best way to give back is to build relationships with people and offer support.
Why do you think mentoring is valuable to young people?
Mentoring can change a young person’s understanding of the world, the way they look at their current circumstances, the people around them, and what their future may or may not look like. It exposes them to a different way of thinking or exploring something. Mentoring can certainly help widen a young person’s horizons. In my experience, I’ve noticed young people who find themselves in difficult social circumstances have the sense that this must be the world, and this immediately limits their human potential. The role of mentoring is to try and change this by opening their imagination. I believe that the human potential is only limited by imagination and by those people around the individual. The work that GT Scholars does is extremely professionally framed. The wider the reach to help more young people, the better it will be for the community that these individuals are in and will find themselves in.
What did you gain from volunteering with GT Scholars?
I’ve learned a lot about myself. I learned to write notes in preparation for a session and to be responsive in the middle of a conversation. My first mentee was a very bright 13-year old boy, and I learnt a lot from his perspective on how he sees the world. In one of our sessions, I asked him a question, “How do you determine the validity of the knowledge that you require to make decisions about what you want to do?” The answer was social media and the number of followers and comments you receive. For me, this was quite striking. I went through a different social experience where social media wasn’t part of my childhood or my university education. It struck me that there is a whole different generation that is assessing knowledge in unique ways. They need to be addressed in ways that allow us to understand them better.
What do you think is the most important skill that a mentor should have?
I believe there are a few skills required to be a mentor. If I have to mention one, I’d say it’s to be a good listener. A mentor needs to be a good listener and not just let your mentee talk, but to listen to what, how, and why your mentee is saying something to you. Also, listening in which context something is being said. To maximise the value of the mentoring, you need to absorb what your mentee says to have a better perspective on how you can mentor and support your mentee.
What words of advice or what encouragement do you have for other up-and-coming mentors out there?
I would say go for it! You’d be surprised what you can contribute to a young person’s life through mentoring. The GT Scholars programme is very good and they have a very helpful team that will assist you along the way!