Y’s Girls is a programme crafted to meet the needs of girls aged 9-14 who are at risk of developing poor mental health. Our volunteer mentors come from all sections of the community and give their time and care to these young girls, helping them navigate whatever they’re struggling with and develop greater resilience and confidence. To shine a light on the kind of difference the mentoring process can make, we’d like to share Mariam’s story:

When we first met Mariam, her self-esteem was at rock bottom. Lacking positive role models, Mariam lived in a crowded family home in which she rarely got the attention she needed as a teenager. Her confidence was so low she found it hard to speak out loud. She didn’t have the confidence to speak to her friends on the phone or to relatives at family gatherings. On our first meeting, we didn’t hear her talk. Her mum spoke for her, and they both knew this couldn’t continue if she was to go to college, make friends, get a job, and thrive in society. Mariam needed a voice.

Mariam’s mentor, Aleena, is studying Psychology with Philosophy at the University of Nottingham and was led to volunteer as a Y’s Girls mentor by a strong desire to give back to the community. Every mentoring journey is unique. There is no set plan, other than to rely on our mentors to tune into each young person’s needs, build trust, and guide them as seems best. This is exactly what Aleena did, giving her time and a listening ear while Mariam gained the confidence to open up. Aleena realised early on that schoolwork and grades were a major problem for Mariam, so she showed her how to make timetables and prioritise tasks, enabling Mariam to manage the workload from school more easily. Aleena built on this by developing study guides to help Mariam get better grades.

One of the main goals Mariam had set out prior to starting the mentoring journey was building confidence and independence. Aleena organised numerous activities based on these goals, including learning French, horse riding, spending time in the city and engaging in conversation with random strangers, learning how to use the bus, and using google maps.

As the mentoring relationship developed, Mariam began to show an interest in animals, wanting to work with them as a future career. Aleena helped her explore her options, helping her apply as a volunteer at Stonebridge City Farm. The farm accepted her, and Mariam soon found herself working with animals every Saturday.

Mariam’s experience at the farm have given her a real sense of direction and enabled her to explore her passion further. By the end of the mentoring journey, Mariam had acquired pet chickens and rabbits to take care of. She loves looking after her animals – a passion that has greatly improved her mental health and ultimately led to her studying Animal Science at Nottingham College.

The programme has had a significant impact on Mariam, encouraged by the incredible rapport and friendship she and Aleena have built. Mariam’s mum felt they were a perfect match, saying that Aleena was like the big sister Mariam had never had. After the sessions ended, she even offered to pay Aleena to continue.

In terms of confidence, Mariam has told Aleena that she finds it easier to communicate with friends and family, and is able to ask for help when needed. She thoroughly enjoyed exploring Nottingham city centre and is more outgoing and social. She feels able to research information on her own, and is confident enough to take part in school activities such as equality group and drumming. She has also noticed that her friends and family have has a positive reaction to her change in confidence. Mariam is delighted she has been able to achieve all the goals she set out at the beginning of the mentoring journey.

Mariam: “I think the program was amazing it made me more confident, outgoing, and independent. I think anyone under 18 should be able to be a part of this program as someone may really benefit from a mentor.”

If you want to donate to the Y’s Girls programme, or know a girl who would benefit from mentoring, please get in touch with the Y’s Girls Programme Coordinator: asma.iqbal@nottsymca.org

Learn more about volunteering for Y’s Girls