The 18th Century Irish philosopher, Edmund Burke, wrote:
“No one could make a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little.”
The Trail-Blazers mentoring project
While a volunteer in Feltham Young Offenders Institution, (which was then Europe’s largest high security prison for under-21s), I was incredibly fortunate to raise £150,000 so as to found the charitable mentoring project, Trail-Blazers. Our aim was to prepare youngsters for personal and working life after their release, and to team them up with mentors working in professions that truly interested them. Mentors would then regularly correspond and visit with the youngster they were teamed with.
At the project’s launch in 1998, it was a real boon to have the onetime judge and former Chief Inspector of Prisons, Sir Stephen Tumim, as our first patron. I soon handed over development of the scheme to the highly skilled and dedicated team of Lisa Taylor, Linda Patterson, and Roma Hooper (our Chair of Trustees) who together took the seeds and shape of the project from strength to strength in the following years, building a model of good practice well beyond my original horizons. One of their patrons is the former Chief Inspector of Prisons, General Sir David Ramsbotham, who did such excellent work for young offenders, during his term of office.
Visit www.trailblazersmentoring.org.uk to find out more
The YoungLives research project
Having interviewed hundreds of highly accomplished individuals in 1999 and 2000, ranging in age from 16 to 70, I was able to set-up a free mentoring website called www.YoungLivesUK.com which is all about ‘How to make the most of life, and how to enjoy the journey‘.
For this face to face long-interview research, I was fortunate to be sponsored by the likes of Reuters News Agency, Nike, Channel 4 TV, Sony PlayStation, and Orange.
On the subject of ‘making the most of life‘, I enjoyed long interviews with each of a host of well-known individuals including Kate Adie (former BBC Head of News), Gary Lineker (former England soccer captain), Nick Hornby (novelist), Helen Fielding (novelist), General Sir Peter de la Billiere (former commander of the Special Air Service regiment), Bill Bryson (travel writer), Martha Lane Fox (founder of lastminute.com), John Madden (director of Shakespeare in Love), Barry Norman (film critic), Jamie Oliver (tv chef), and Sir Geoff Hampton (Headteacher).
I also enjoyed long interviews with top young professionals and their training directors at McKinsey & Co., Dell Computers, JP Morgan, The Rambert Dance Company; The Laban Dance Centre, The Slade Art School, The Royal College of Art, The Royal Marine Commandos, The Grenadier Guards, RAF Cranwell Flight Training School, and Sandhurst Military Academy.
I also conducted long interviews with many top A-level students and senior teachers from Eton, Gordonstoun, Oxford High School, The Manchester Grammar School, Rugby, Radley, Hills Road 6th Form College Cambridge, South Hampstead High School, Tonbridge Grammar School For Girls, and The William Ellis School (Kentish Town).
Their innovative ideas and advice rooted in well-grounded experience, formed the raw material for the website at www.YoungLivesUK.com which has broadcast for five years now.