Mentoring for the first time

At I CAN Network, we’re always on the lookout for young people on the spectrum who we think would make great mentors. One of our most recent members to take this step is Lana Wheatfil, pictured below, (third from the left) who made her debut as an assistant mentor at our teens camp in May. This is her account of how it went. Enjoy!

Max Williams, Editor

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Some of the self-named Aquinas Mutants on camp

The 26th of May marked the starting point on my journey to becoming a mentor. I was understandably nervous coming to camp as it was my first time as a mentor and I didn’t quite know what to expect. I had a lot of second hand accounts and information given to me about what it’s like and what to do if a situation happened, but nothing compares to first-hand knowledge. Despite my worries, however, I was looking forward to it. This was a new experience for me but I was going to take it by the horns and make it my own.

When I got there, I was an hour late which in turn meant I was a bit stressed, though I am sure I hid it well. Friday night was easy, because you just had to introduce yourself, meet your colour group, sit with said group for supper and then play a couple of games before bed. It got a little loud sometimes, but other than that everything was fine.

Saturday was the busiest day. The morning was filled with team work activities and the afternoon consisted of horses, rock climbing and archery. The morning presented a few problems as I had not met with my group the night before and as such I had no idea about names, faces and group dynamics. But I think overall Saturday went well. There were a few rocky moments but in the end it was a great day and the kids in my group had a lot of fun. One of the more interesting moments was the fact that I spent two hours with a few members of my group at the trampolines. Two. Whole. Hours. It was actually a lot of fun for the most part but I was so exhausted afterwards!

After dinner came ‘Dress to Obsess’. It was amazing to see everyone dressed as some of their favourite obsessions. One girl in particular stole the show with a transformer costume she had made herself. One of our awesome participants was dressed as an echidna which I found to be both ingenious and endearing. There were so many other fantastic costumes and ideas that I simply cannot mention them all despite the fact that they are all worth noting.

I think my favourite part of camp was trying to light a fire doomed to fail. Whilst everyone else was inside participating in dress to obsess and the disco, myself and two fellow mentors stood outside in the rain trying to light a fire. This fire was the most frustrating thing in existence because it would not properly burn no matter how much kindling we threw at it and not only that but half way through it started to rain. Despite that rain we kept at it and tended to that fire for ages before Chris came out and told us to abandon ship. Despite the fact that caring for that fire was frustrating beyond belief, I had fun sitting out there with two other mentors, sharing stories and jokes whilst really trying to get this fire going. It was peaceful and I had a nice time.

Sunday was the final day and it came and went in the blink of an eye. The day consisted of talks, workshops and activities. It was both informative and fun.

I left the camp feeling exhausted but triumphant. The experience of being a mentor is extremely rewarding because you get to connect with these kids and (hopefully) change their lives for the better. I can’t wait for my next opportunity to be a mentor again and I strongly recommend becoming one. It is a fantastic experience you will never forget!

Lana Wheatfill, 16

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