When I first met Aaron, his case manager informed me that he would struggle in our meeting,” I work with lots of people who have low self- esteem and confidence issues” I replied.

As I entered the interview room with my volunteer mentor ready to get started I looked around and there he was, Aaron sat looking down at his hands, paralysed by the fear of meeting not one but two new people. We started the meeting, Aaron answered all of my questions in a voice that was barely audible, and at no point was he able to look up and speak to me, Instead preferring to keep his eyes firmly fixed on his constantly moving hands.

We agreed a follow up meeting that was going to take place in a quiet part of town. My self and his volunteer mentor started discussing ways in which we could reach out to Aaron, encourage him, build trust confidence and self- belief. Armed with the knowledge that Aaron liked to draw and indulge in all things creative we came up with a plan. We decided that for the first meeting we would try to engage in conversation. Choosing to spend the session in the art gallery looking at the latest exhibition. This broke the barrier far enough for us to gain a small insight into the thought processes Aaron had, we were able to start laying the foundations for the mentoring relationship.

In a bid to further build on Aaron’s confidence I wanted to give him a sense of control back, After all, the decisions in his life at this time were all being made by other people. Probation telling him when and where he had to go, housing officers telling him where he was going to live, the benefit office telling him how to fill his time. I arrived at our session with a drawing pad, pencils and a rubber. I asked Aaron if he would mind drawing with me. We spent two hours drawing with Aaron showing me how to use light and shade to create my own picture. We chatted easily during the whole session where I suggested he could use a diary as a way of recording his thoughts about his past and current situation.

On our next session Aaron handed me an autobiographical poem he’d started to write. Explaining that he wanted me to understand his offending and his past. But he wasn’t able to articulate all of these thoughts...

Tis late at night the unearthly hour, That feel I full force my muse’s

power

Here now, say I, It must be confessed, No-longer feel I so deeply

distressed

Here with a true friend as my guide,  No longer feel I the need to

hide

So now with my true friend I address, With words bestowed by my

pens caress.

But first, If you are to comprehend These writings from beginning to

end,

Then back in time I now must go. To when I was a child as pure as

snow, When first my eyes looked upon the sky,

When first I saw clouds floating by.

Through this medium we were able to start peeling back layer after layer. Aaron was building in confidence at every meeting then the unthinkable happened.

Aaron had taken his bike to the shops to buy a few essentials, choosing to go late at night because he would have to deal with less people and better control the social anxieties. He was beaten and his bike was taken from him. Aaron was able to report the incident to the police, but he then cocooned himself in his tiny flat. Only coming out to attend his mandatory appointments and to see his Sova mentor.

We took things slowly, recognising the personal set back Aaron was facing but supporting him in his continued and positive progression. Acting quickly when he sent a text saying “I just wanted to end it all” by ensuring he received a welfare visit and increasing the amount of mentoring sessions. Some sessions were just a coffee so that Aaron had a reason to leave the flat.

Finally Aaron started to demonstrate the grit and determination we all believed he had in him. He made the incredibly brave decision to try a bus journey. So on a crisp October morning he set off with his mentor on the bus. Aaron found this to be a liberating but scary and emotional experience in equal measure.

We continue to work with and support Aaron on his personal journey, It has so far been a privilege to watch the changes develop in him and we are looking forward to all of the positive mentoring experiences that will follow.