"I have been a Shannon Trust mentor for about 2 and a half years, the majority of that time was during the COVID lockdown, and as a result I’ve taught about 10 or 12 learners.
"My initial reason for becoming a Shannon Trust mentor was perhaps a selfish one and was a way of keeping myself busy and active. It soon opened my eyes to how rewarding the work can be and also made me aware of how many people of all ages and all walks of life have issues with reading.
"Initially I had hoped just to keep busy and feel like a useful member of society. As I progressed I became more focused on my learner’s achievements and looked forward to the sessions. I was apprehensive at first and worried about my ability to help but my concerns soon disappeared as I learned the sessions were not just an academic study but also a social interaction with benefits for both learner and mentor. The program was not what I expected, I was not prepared for the gratitude shown by my learners as they progress and become more confident – as a result I think I get as much satisfaction as them!
"During my time as a mentor, I have become much more patient with people and more able to understand their frustrations, or feel empathy for any difficulties or stress that people suffer in situations I may take for granted. As a result, I believe I am more likely to recognise situations that may cause stress or embarrassment to somebody or just more willing to take time to try and help.
"I feel good about myself if I’ve been able to help anyone. Stress and despair are normally small things that tend to build up and cause people to do something silly or dangerous and if I can relieve some of that pressure I will feel good and improve my sense of self-worth.
"I have to admit to being a bit emotional when my learners receive their certificates. We would normally have a presentation day for several learners at a time and it is great to see their reactions, although some try to be nonchalant. It’s hard for them to hide how proud they are when sporting a Cheshire Cat grin!
"My best memory is of my first learner receiving his first certificate, he is painfully shy and hated the idea of a presentation. As he knew I would be there, he went along and enjoyed the limelight and has his certificates laminated and on display.
"Knowing you are able to give other people the ability to do everyday things I take for granted such as read a book or a film review, understand instructions on medicines makes the reading programme a good experience. It is also great when learners recognise the improvements they have made and notice themselves using their new skills.
"For the learner, a whole new world opens up for them, not having to rely on others to read personal information for them, or education becomes accessible as do books, job descriptions. Even a simple recipe to follow may prove they have skills they were unaware of. This type of learning is less formal and less stressful, 1 to 1 learning means you can have a giggle along the way and learn at your own pace and not worry about keeping up with 20 other learners."
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