Mentor of the Month: James Fitzpatrick

Who are you?

My name is James.  I’ve worked in the public and not-for-profit sector for the past 37 years and I’m currently chief executive of a grant making charity. I’ve also volunteered with a range of charities – including the Friends group at my local hospital. 

How did you get involved with DFF? 

I was looking for an opportunity to volunteer with a charity working with care experienced young people.  I chose this issue because in my close family I have two young people who have been in the care system. 

I researched charities working in this field and I was impressed by DFF’s values and approach.  I liked their focus on supporting young people into good quality employment – and I was impressed by the range of support DFF provides, such as the lunch club, mentoring and one-to-one support.  I particularly liked that DFF continues to support young people after they’ve started work, helping them to get the most out of their new job.   

I was also very impressed by DFF’s policy and influencing work which supports young people to advocate for improvements in the care system. 

I applied to be a mentor as an individual – rather than through my employer – and feel very fortunate to have been given the opportunity to work with the charity. 

Why did you become a mentor?

I wanted to use my professional experience as an employer and manager to assist care experienced young people to identify and use their capabilities to the full. Im interested in supporting young people to think about both the hard and soft skills that will help them to achieve their ambitions and potential. 

But I’m also interested in learning. In particular, how to be a better mentor – and I’ve found the mentoring training provided by DFF to be really valuable.  I also see the mentoring role as an opportunity to develop my knowledge and skills as a manager – learning from the young people I’m working withI believe it will help make me a better manager, and inform my own work, to learn about the world from other people’s perspectives – particularly people whose experience is very different to my own. 

What’s been your experience?

I’ve only recently started volunteering with DFF and I’m currently in my first mentoring relationship. So far, I’ve found it challenging – but in a good way. It’s already helped me to really think about how well I listen and how I can best support the person I’m working with to identify and work towards their own goals. 

As a new mentor, the support I’ve received from DFF has been very important to me – and knowing I can check in with them at any point has been really helpful. 

Please share a memorable moment with us

During one of the training sessions for new mentors, DFF introduced us to two young people who had previously been mentored and who were in the process of becoming peer mentors themselves. I was struck by how much they valued DFF’s past support and were now using that experience – and their own experience of leaving care – to help other care experienced young people. 

What have you learned?

I’ve learned that I don’t have to know all the answers to be a mentor. That my role is to act as a sounding board, to encourage and support, to reflect back and, where appropriate, to gently challenge.   

I’ve also learned that it’s important to set objectives for the mentoring relationship and to go at a rate that keeps things moving forward at a manageable pace. 

And in particular, the young people I’ve met through DFF have shown me that DFF’s support works 

More info about our mentoring scheme

Or get in touch with Tara Larkin at tara@driveforwardfoundation.org

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