A CHARITY that helps to restore confidence and self-belief in young people is on the search for more inspiring mentors to help deal with a record number of referrals.

Since the beginning of the summer, SMASH have had a large number of referrals requesting mentors for young people and as a result, there are more than 25 young people aged between 13 and 18 who are waiting for mentors after making the decision to change their lives.

One volunteer who decided to become a mentor is 50-year-old Paul Brown, of Royal Wootton Bassett, and he is now working with his 10th young person.

Paul was a senior prison officer at a young offenders’ institute and in 2006 he put himself forward to SMASH after deciding he wanted to do more with young people. He is now working with 15-year-old Aiden Park, of Toothill, and the pair spend two hours a week with each other doing various activities including bowling and swimming.

After, they often grab something to eat which gives Aiden the chance to confide in Paul and discuss any problems he is having which he used to struggle to do.

Paul said: “Mentoring has completely changed my outlook on life. I’m not so judgmental and have learnt that a person’s behaviour is not always a good reflection of who they really are inside.

“My children were very fortunate but some young people don’t have the luxury of someone who believes in them and gives them guidance in life skills.

“It is just seeing the end result because at the beginning we get given a young vulnerable person who doesn’t know you and is going to put a lot of trust in you.

“As the time goes on you can build a really good relationship and it is great to see the young person grow in confidence and to know that they can confide in you.

“Anybody from any walk of life can be a mentor, there is no qualification needed – you just need to be able to give up two hours a week, which in the grand scheme of things is not a lot.

“If I can make that little difference for a young person then it’s so worthwhile.” Aiden was lacking in confidence before he was recommended to SMASH but has made the most of the opportunity and would recommend it to any other young person.

He said: “Before I was not really going out and I was feeling quite depressed. “I was recommended SMASH by my social worker and after talking it through with my dad we thought it would be a good idea. “It has helped me so much – before I didn’t really think I could trust anybody and didn’t know who to talk to but now with Paul I have somebody who I trust. “It is just the fact that you have someone there who you can talk to about anything that is going on and you know it won’t go any further.”

SMASH mentors are volunteers from all walks of life who can offer support, encouragement and advice to a young person. They are given excellent training before being carefully matched with a teenager.

SMASH then provides regular support to the mentor who commits to giving a couple of hours of their time each week to meet with the young person to build trust and provide an effective role model.

If you feel that you could be a mentor or would like to know more about the role then either visit www.smashyouthproject.co.uk, where you can download an application form, email admin@smashyouthproject.co.uk or call 01793 729748.