He’d never had an apple – now he loves them.

The Kids Network exists so that all children who need a mentor can have one.

In 2023, 100% of children who took part in our mentoring programme reported that enjoyed spending time with their mentor. We could never make the impact we make without the time, dedication and curiosity of our volunteer mentors.

Our amazing volunteers were celebrated in the Daily Mail for their amazing achievements and journeys with their mentee. We wanted to continue this celebration by highlighting each of those stories and the words from those volunteer mentors.

Meet Phoebe, a project manager living in South London.

Watching my mentee stroke a dog in the street last summer, a big beam on his face, I could not have felt more proud. When I first met my nine-year-old Little Londoner in March 2023, I was told his lack of confidence made him disruptive in class. He loathed school — he was being bullied — and was petrified of dogs.

But within three months he was a changed boy. He blossomed before my eyes. When he told me he was enjoying school I knew we’d cracked it. It’s no miracle. I just showed up every Sunday, we played ping-pong and football in the park, I took him for bubble teas, which he adores, we chatted away and, most of all, I listened.

He comes from a big family and, understandably, craved adult company. I gave him one-to-one attention. I was lucky to have had that myself. I have a supportive family.

I tried to broaden his horizons to help boost his confidence. When we met, he only ate toast or hot dogs and wouldn’t touch vegetables. But I took him for sushi on my birthday and he ended up ordering seconds.

We had a fruit tasting session and he had to differentiate between ten fruits with his eyes shut. He’d never eaten an apple or grape before and only guessed cherry because he’d had a cherry yogurt. There were loads of different fruits he loves and now he eats them with gusto.

He told me towards the end of our year together: ‘I’m going to really miss these good old times — you and me hanging out.’ I was so touched, I almost cried. And he says I’ve inspired him to be a mentor one day, too.

If you are interested in supporting The Kids Network, please head to our donations page or find out how to become a mentor and give your time to be a hero for a little Londoner.


This article was written by Tessa Cunningham and was originally published in the Daily Mail in April 2024.

The photograph is by Lezli+Rose; hair and make up by Amanda Clarke and Amber Sibley at Joy Goodman; styling by Camilla Ridley-Day and Kathryn Winter.

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