I came to CAIS in Colwyn Bay in November 2011 because I had made a decision to change the direction in which my career had been going; I needed guidance, advice, and reassurance that I could start rewriting a new chapter in my life story.
I had the advantage that I was already granted the gift of being sober for 3 years through regularly attending Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) after leaving Touchstones 12 in April 2009, so for my mentor and me it was straight into action, she, Jazmine Bonnell, worked out a plan that was aimed at getting me back into the ‘seat’ of learning.
I started by doing one day courses on confidence building and employability skills. These were invaluable, they reinforced what the 12 step programme of AA had shown me, patience, tolerance and acceptance of other people, empathy for the still suffering alcoholic/addict and a greater understanding of values and principles. I didn’t find it easy, change rarely is, but my resistance to change diminished as time and experience went by.
From the day courses, I went on to do Peer Mentor Level 2, a Criminal Justice Volunteer Programme with Nacro, (6 weeks, sponsored by Jazmine) an introduction to care work and social sciences course(s), (2 x 10 week courses) through Llandrillo college, a buddy/advocacy programme with The Sanctuary Trust, (4 weeks) the core workers skills course (4 weeks) and the Peer mentor Level 4 course. I also did other day courses, including equality and diversity.
All of these courses, and regularly being encouraged, monitored and mentored by Jazmine enabled me to realise my potential and enrol on an Access to Higher Education Diploma level 3 course at Rhyl College. I started the course on September 18th 2012. I’m enjoying it, the challenge isn’t anywhere near as daunting as it may have been had I not been in the peer mentor scheme and my aim is to go to university and eventually teach life skills to mature adults/students, such as literacy and numeracy.
I have also encountered some difficulties with various personalities, both within the social care setting and outside of it, having a mentor who believes in me, who wants the best for me, has helped immeasurably.
To summarise; It is my opinion that for anyone to succeed, there has to be people on the ‘coalface.’ A good Peer mentor identifies the needs of the mentee, helps them to believe in themselves, as this, in my experience, is often lacking in the mentee. I believe in me today, and that is down to a combination of the 12 step programme of AA, (in the USA, a senator suggested that every household should have a copy of the 12 steps and 12 traditions of AA!) a good Peer Mentor, to offer alternative ideas for re-training, and a dose of effort and commitment from each individual.
I am grateful that I came into the peer mentor scheme; I hope that others will get to benefit from in it in the future. I give it my full endorsement.