Volunteer stories: mentoring with The Girls' Network

Volunteer stories: mentoring with The Girls' Network

Girls' Network group
The Girls' Network © www.thegirlsnetwork.org.uk

Tori Sprung is a lecturer working across the physical activity and cardiovascular teams in the School of Sport and Exercise Sciences. Tori studied both her BSc Sport Science and her PhD at LJMU. She is an honorary research fellow within the Institute of Ageing and Chronic Disease at the University of Liverpool. Despite all her achievements and a full schedule, she makes time to volunteer as a mentor for a charity close to her heart: The Girls’ Network.

The Girls’ Network aims to inspire and empower girls from disadvantaged communities by pairing them with a female mentor. Tori explains:

Tori Sprung

“The Girls’ Network, and everyone connected with them, believe that no girl should limit their futures based on their gender, background or household income and that all girls should be encouraged and supported to realise their potential.”

By its virtue of being a STEM subject and its association with elite sport, Tori describes her discipline of sport and exercise science as being heavily male-dominated, part of the reason she wanted to get involved with The Girls’ Network.

“I have worked on a number of initiatives that promote equality and diversity in science, a field where women and other minority groups have been historically underrepresented, and so identified with The Girls’ Network mission statement immediately. By volunteering for one hour a month, you can show a teenage girl from a disadvantaged community that she is worth investing time in. This is such a powerful act that can potentially give them the confidence to seize opportunities and realise their potential.”

“It is a real privilege to be so involved in someone’s journey and personal development in such a way.”

Tori has been involved with the charity for three years, she explains how the mentorship works:

“After an initial matching session, set out a little like speed dating, you are matched with a mentee whom you meet once per month, a total of ten times. Initially, the girls are usually nervous and unsure about what they want to get out of the setup. The onus is on you not to dictate but to guide their experience, ask the right questions and there is definitely an element of gaining their trust. I was so excited to start and still feel excited before each session.”

And in the three years since her first session, Tori has come to realise just how significant her contribution is, recalling one particular relationship:

“My stand out experience comes from working with a girl who had some behaviour issues. She was intelligent and capable but also frustrated and not adept in conflict management. I did some reading, listened to a few podcasts and whilst our conversations always flowed, I couldn’t gauge whether I was helping or not.  Around six months into our mentoring relationship one of her teachers emailed me to say that the change the school had seen in her was incredible and that whatever I was doing seemed to be helping her more than they ever had. When I spoke to my mentee about this, she talked openly about how she thinks about all we discuss and that it inspires her to be a better person. There is no better feeling than when your mentee says, ‘I’ve been thinking about what we talked about…’ Inspiring curiosity and independent thinking excites me so much more than knowledge exchange. It is a real privilege to be so involved in someone’s journey and personal development in such a way.”

It’s not only the mentees that benefit from the relationships established with volunteers, but those who volunteer their time find the experience beneficial too, as Tori points out:

“Mentoring for me has been immeasurably valuable. As well as the diverse set of experiences it gives me, my mentees have been equally amazing at ‘reverse mentoring’ me. It is a rare instance of a reciprocal relationship.”

Why volunteer?

Here are just some of the benefits of volunteering:

  • It helps you build confidence
  • You’ll gain a sense of wellbeing and achievement
  • You can learn new skills
  • You can make new friends
  • It can help enhance your employment prospects
  • It’s fun
  • You’ll be recognised for your hard work
  • It makes a positive impact
  • You’ll gain a better understanding of the challenges that affect people and society
  • You’ll work as part of a team and experience a sense of belonging
  • It can provide a welcome distraction from stressful circumstances in your own life
  • You’ll spend your spare time in a meaningful way

The Girls' Network, one of LJMU's newly appointed corporate charities, are on the lookout for women with experience of the workplace (in any sector or discipline) to support a girl from a disadvantaged community to overcome obstacles and seize opportunities. If you're interested, you can find out about this and other opportunities in our volunteering section.

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