Jessica*, Peer Mentor for SHP's Fulfilling Lives in Islington and Camden  Service

SHP's Fulfilling Lives Islington and Camden (FLIC) is an eight-year Big Lottery funded project supporting adults with multiple and complex needs. In Spring 2017, the service set-up a Peer Mentoring Programme for volunteers who have lived experiences of homeless, mental ill-health or substance misuse issues and would like to use these experiences to help others. Many Peer Mentors go on to have careers in the sector. 

After training, FLIC Peer Mentors support clients on a one-to-one, more informal basis. This could include accompanying their mentee to appointments, working with them in the local community, or even going on activities and day trips together such as cinema outings, museum visits, walks and lunches. 

Here Jessica* - one of the Peer Mentors who joined the programme last year - shares her story:

I chose to become a Peer Mentor with FLIC because I know what it is like to go through complex challenges and wanted to put my experiences to good use. 

I share my recovery journey in the hope that it will instil belief in others; that the difficult times in life can be overcome and one can return to enjoy life to the fullest. I truly believe in the human capacity to change for the better if people are given the right support and are fully included in the process.

There are always challenges with such a role. The main challenge is to engage with the clients, especially as the majority are occupied with dealing with their issues. I believe my genuineness, my willingness to help and my consistency made sure that all eventually appreciate my support. Some things might not have changed in their lives (yet!), but at least I put a smile on their face!

One of the best ways I work with clients is just to have fun together - whether out in the community or attending appointments together. We become friends and can share a joke and a laugh as well as our views on life events.

I know how important this is - the people I work with often feel marginalised by society because of what they have through so behaving towards them just how all human being should relate to another goes a long way. I really enjoyed creating new relationships and being able to support the clients through difficult times.

I enjoyed the training and the programme, including the continued support I get from the team. It has made me grow as a person as well as a professional.

I also really enjoy the company from my fellow Peer Mentors - we've become like a big family. The peer mentor manager Elena played a big role in keeping us together and making sure we always enjoy our work. The team are always available for support when need and show a lot of interest in our contribution and plans for each client. From day one, I felt like I was valued and treated like a member of the team! 

I also enjoyed having a personal budget to use for my professional development. At first, it was quite a surprise for me; having volunteered for different organisations, my experience is that the focus on mainly on the clients.

With FLIC, it's been completely different - my personal growth is always in the mind of my supervisors!

My hopes for the future are to keep building my knowledge and experiences, and use these to keep supporting those in need - and hopefully, one day, I'll be work in this sector.

*Name has been changed for the purpose of this blog.