I’m a software engineer working at the BBC in Manchester. I have microphthalmia and a cataract. I was born with some useful vision but lost it all when I was 14.
What made you become a mentor?
I wanted to give something back. I’ve experienced specialist education, graduated and got a job so enjoy talking about all of those things with my mentees, but one of the things that I like the most about the mentor programme is that everyone brings their own interests to the table – there’s a genuine feeling that we can all learn from each other because the paths that we’ve taken & our experiences are all different to each other’s.
Why do we need to have mentors for VI children and young people?
In a word, companionship. It’s becoming increasingly common for VI children / young people to (for better or for worse) be schooled in a mainstream setting with only limited access to a QTVI and more importantly people who are going through the same sort of things that they’re going through. The teenage years are hard for everyone & VI people are no exception. Being VI doesn’t have to be the end of the world – all of our mentors and mentees are proving that every day but it does sometimes make things a bit harder which is why it’s really important to have someone who you can reach out too who has gone through the same things that you’re going through and can offer some advice. The internet makes it easy to connect with other VI people around the world but we all know that interacting online isn’t always smooth sailing; the mentor programme harnesses the potential of technologies like the internet but does so in a controlled environment that makes sure that both mentee and mentor get as much out of their relationship as possible whilst staying safe.
What have been the highlights for you?
It was a great feeling when I learnt about the sort of things my mentees were in to and I realised that there were actually quite a few things that I’d be able to help them with. I’ve also been fortunate enough to meet one of my mentees through one of Look’s confidence & wellbeing weekends; it was really satisfying to put a voice to someone who I’d only communicated with online & to be able to give them a bit of face to face advice.
What do you say to anyone thinking of becoming a mentor?
Do it! It doesn’t matter where you are in life – you’re going to have a perspective on something that other mentors won’t have & there’ll always be someone who’s a little bit further down the ladder than you are who will really value your help.
How has Look helped you?
I’ve really enjoyed the mentor training weekends I’ve attended. Mentoring isn’t hard but there are some things you’ll need to know before you get started; the weekends are a great way to learn about the programme & mentorship in general in a fun & relaxed environment around other VI people who are also new to the programme. I suppose I should give a shout out to all the amazing mentor officers as well – they’re all only ever a text / call / email away if you have any questions.