10 Life Lessons from my Cancer journey

10 Life Lessons from my Cancer journey

Do you know anyone who has been struck down with Cancer? Anyone who might be on that journey at the moment? A young person needing encouragement? I was struck down with cancer at the age of nine and underwent some radiation treatment (2.5 times the adult dose), followed by significant major surgery during the next couple of years and then again when I was 18. My parents were told that I probably had two years to live and, during these two years, my mother died suddenly. Thankfully, I survived the Cancer and now, 50 years later, reflecting on my life journey to date, I happily share 10 Life Lessons that I have learnt, through trial and error, highs and lows, over the years and which helped me through challenging adolescent years as I came to terms with my disfigurement and responded to it. I share these experiences with teenagers I mentor, encouraging them to keep on keeping on through the confusing adolescent years, especially when the odds are stacked against them. Following these key tips has taught me the importance of living a positive life journey filled with HOPE, experiencing unconditional love and care from those closest to me, whilst also feeling valued and, ultimately, leading a life of meaning and purpose with a strong sense of serving others. Anyone who has suffered from Cancer will know the challenges one experiences overcoming times of adversity and enjoying success. Here’s what my life experiences have taught me: Attitude – never forget that you choose your attitude and how you respond to all that life throws at you. The choices you...
15 goal-getting results from mentoring partnerships

15 goal-getting results from mentoring partnerships

How do you feel when you achieve a goal? I feel like celebrating somehow, especially when I have had to stretch myself and move well out of my comfort zone. If we can remember how we became goal getters, we have a story to share with our mentees, many of whom will need plenty of support to wish to embark on a goal getting program. 2018 has arrived and, early in January, I sit down and, over a few days, set my goals for the year. I break these down into monthly goals and am able to stay focused on leading a healthy and balanced lifestyle. I have done this for many years and, even though I am now retired, I still set goals around family, my faith walk, personal development, health, exercise and wellbeing and my interests. More ands more Neuroscience research that I am reading is pointing to the importance of setting goals as an important aspect of adolescent brain development. This all reminded me of some examples of goals achieved by adolescent mentees during a mentoring relationship in programs I have been linked with. These examples might encourage volunteer adult mentors and help them to appreciate that there is such a variety of goals one can encourage in a mentoring relationship, some fairly straightforward. 1. A mentee’s grades in one academic subject improved from 28% to 50%. 2. A mentee worked on lifting weights at a gym, which the mentor used to teach goal setting. They had a great relationship. 3. A mentee obtained a part-time job with the help of a mentor. 4. A mentee...
‘Gr8 Mates Rox!’ – the power of youth mentoring

‘Gr8 Mates Rox!’ – the power of youth mentoring

“Gr8 Mates Rox!” wrote a student participating in the Gr8 Mates school based youth mentoring program when the first surveys of the trial program were carried out. How positive is that, especially coming from a student who was experiencing low self-esteem and a lack of self-confidence when she embarked on her mentoring journey. While there were a few wobbles during the early days of the program as a result of some transient students, the program did settle down and became a wonderful journey of self-empowerment and building relationships between young people and their volunteer adult mentors. On one occasion the mentors from one of the programs accompanied their mentees to a local Careers Market where they had the opportunity to visit a variety of stalls covering many possible careers, places for further study, Apprenticeship opportunities and lots more. Approximately 6,600 students passed through this event over two days. It was easy for some students to waste the opportunity, perhaps even feel overwhelmed by all the information on offer to them, though this was not the case in the situations where mentors accompanied their mentees. One mentor assisted a student with the development of a career plan, offering extra time to take the student to visit a friend of hers to chat about the career this young student had expressed an interest in pursuing. On another evening a mentor accompanied her mentee to the student’s subject selection evening at the student’s school and, judging from the emails that were exchanged after that particular evening, this experience further cemented the mentoring relationship. Another mentor was planning to introduce his mentee to...
Why teenagers need sleep!

Why teenagers need sleep!

Do you have a teenage child? Are you mentoring a teenager? How many hours sleep does that young person have EVERY night? Rule of thumb is that adolescents require 9 hours sleep every night during these critical years of growth and while the brain is developing.I remain continually puzzled that so many teenagers and their parents seem reluctant to ensure that these young people have a minimum of 9 hours sleep every night. More and more research points to the necessity of this, as puberty is kicking in and the brain is at an important stage of its developmental journey. The brain needs sleep to dispose of unimportant information, lay down new learning and to process new information. It needs sleep to regulate emotions. Basically, the brain needs sleep to grow, change and re-energise so it can function properly during the following day. Indeed, scientists have learnt that what our brain learns during the day is CONSOLIDATED during sleep. Author and brain researcher, Nicola Morgan, says there is more and more evidence now suggesting that our sleeping brains practise the things we do while we are awake. She describes how REM sleep (Rapid Eye Movement sleep), during which time our eyelids are flattering, happens at certain stages during the sleep cycle, particularly when we are experiencing deep sleep and dreaming. Research is now suggesting that REM sleep is particularly important for memory and learning. During adolescence changes to the brain do affect the biological clock, a cluster of neurons that sends signals throughout the body and control fundamentally all of the internal operations, one of which is sleep.  MELATONIN, the...
The power of investing time with young people

The power of investing time with young people

How do we motivate and inspire the millions of young people who are drifting aimlessly to become the best they can be? How do we move alongside young people trying to find their way through the confusing adolescent years? How do we galvanize communities to develop a global youth mentoring crusade?These are some of the questions I am regularly asking myself, though I have no clear answers, other than knowing that something has to happen to create a global movement that sees the skills, knowledge and life experience of millions of potential volunteer adult mentors being shared with young people often desperate to have a significant adult in their lives to guide them, be a non-judgmental Cheerleader and encourager. Reflecting on mentoring programs I have been involved with, I recall conversations with mentors who had expressed disappointment that their mentees might not have completed a relatively easy task they agreed to see completed when they last met. During the training of volunteer adolescent mentors, which I link to my user-friendly book, The Spirit of Mentoring – A manual for adult volunteers,  which has hundreds of tips for mentors to consider during the mentoring journey, I suggest to mentors that they have no expectations of their mentees when they begin the mentoring journey. Then they will not be disappointed. Most young people entering a mentoring program are lacking self-confidence and genuinely believe they can’t achieve much with their lives. This might be because of the messages they might be receiving from parents, peers and teachers. Perhaps it is because they might have a sibling who appears to do well at school,...
Early lessons learnt or reinforced in setting up a youth mentoring program

Early lessons learnt or reinforced in setting up a youth mentoring program

Are you involved in setting up a youth mentoring program? Are there days you feel overwhelmed? I wrote down some thoughts when I was setting up from scratch the Gr8 Mates school-based youth mentoring program.There were ongoing lessons being learnt on the journey. What follows are some of the lessons I learnt: Make sure the program is internationally credible, which requires a Policies and Procedures Manual. There are some good examples of these on internationally credible youth mentoring websites. Develop a budget and have a plan as to how the program will roll out. Gr8 Mates had a possible 5 year budget plan which was continually being revised as the program was being developed. It added credibility to the program when approaching potential donors. Develop the program slowly. Don’t try to make it too big too fast. A quality program will take time to develop. I rewrote of the Policies and Procedures Manual within the first three to six months of launching the program. Think about evaluation all the time. I recorded ‘every’ inquiry about the program and also knew how most of the people contacting me had heard about the program. I evaluated the mentor training, the mentee training and the mentor/mentee matching session. Keep building partnerships and networks within the local and wider community eg, businesses; University of the 3rd Age; faith institutions; Sport Clubs and so on.. Make the training free wherever possible – after all, the mentors are volunteering their time. The host school contributed a small amount for each participating student and this covered most of the mentor’s training accreditation fee. We covered the...