I feel like a proud big sister.

The Kids Network is a community of children and volunteer mentors connecting through fun, curiosity and friendship. Our mentors are key to our work and have the most enormous impact on the children they are paired with.

Recently 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 Jolene, an Office Manager for a finance company who lives in North London.

My dad died when I was 18 months old, leaving my mum to raise me alone. I was immensely lucky to have an aunt and uncle who filled the gap. They were my mentors. They made such a difference to my life, I wanted to try to do the same for another child.

I was nervous about meeting my Little Londoner for the first time in January 2023. He was 11 and I thought he would think me really uncool, but we clicked over a card game we both enjoyed.

I was told he had experienced some domestic upheaval and was feeling anxious. He was even frightened to walk to the local supermarket just four minutes from his home.

He said he wanted someone kind who was happy to play basketball and video games with him and I promised to do my best. We met every Sunday come rain or shine. I really looked forward to our sessions. I suffer from winter blues but I had to bring my A-game and forget my own troubles. My partner noticed I always came home buzzing and energised.

He wanted to get more comfortable using public transport, so during one session I suggested he plan our route across London. It was the first time he had done that and he loved it. By the end of the year, he was taking the bus by himself to see his friends. That was a huge win.

He also conquered his fear of heights. I took him to an outdoor activity centre with huge climbing frames. He ended up leading the way while I was quaking in my boots.

The Kids Network say he’s a different little boy. All he needed was my time — and I’d give it again in a heartbeat. I’m as proud as a big sister would be of all he’s achieved — but he would probably laugh that actually I’m like a great aunt because I’m so ancient!

Could you become a hero for a little Londoner? Find out how on our become a mentor page.

If you are interested in supporting our work at The Kids Network, please head to our donations page.


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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