In this guest blog, Greg Bonsu, Senior Strategy Director and dedicated Routes2Success role-model and mentor, shares the impact that volunteering to work with young people has had on him. Routes2Success is our ethnic minority school role-model and mentoring programme for children and young people aged 10 – 24.
Prior to joining Routes2Success (R2S) as a volunteer in February 2019, I was just someone who went to work, came home and did social things at the weekend.
Fast forward to October 2023, and my experiences as a R2S Role Model have evolved into me being part of a few other organisations that champion diversity, equality and inclusion, advocate for the career progression and increased senior representation of black professionals in the workplace, and I now facilitate social mobility impact programmes with young people.
But how did I get here?
I came across an article about young Black men in the finance industry and why they were overlooked for roles.
At the time, I strongly disagreed with some of the points and felt compelled to e-mail the author, who happened to be the Chief Executive and Founder of Action for Race Equality (ARE), Jeremy Crook.
Jeremy kindly replied with a very nice thought-out response and could see that I had a passion to help, so he put me in contact with the R2S Programme Manager. She gave me a bit of background about the programme – how it’s funded, scope, insight to what sessions are like, and suggested I partner with a more experienced role model to take a session.
Having never stood in front of children to present and the last time I was in a classroom was 16 years ago, I was nervous.
The first two sessions were great – I really felt like I made an impact, and I could see the change in the boys even though I had only been with them for a total of 3 hours – we covered goals, aspirations, had debates and created fun ways to follow instructions.
The last session, however, was terrible – the boys were rude, seemed to forget what they had learnt, didn’t listen and I couldn’t wait to get out of there. But just as I was leaving, one boy quietly walked over to me and said, “thank you for your time today, sir” and shook my hand.
Four weeks ago, this boy had walked in with his shirt untucked, disengaged and I could barely get a “bye” out of him but 4 weeks later, he’d left a proud, confident and self-assured young man.
I knew in that moment that even though it was one boy and ten hours of my time, I had made a difference. I didn’t know what to expect before the session and even to this day, after most sessions I don’t know what path the lives of the young people will go down, but I know that I’ve made a difference and that many of them will leave the class better than when they first walked in.
If I look back at my journey since that very first Routes2Success session in February 2019, I have grown professionally, personally and socially in ways that I couldn’t have imagined; none of which, would have been possible if I didn’t send that e-mail to the Chief Executive but more importantly, if I hadn’t had joined the R2S programme and enriched the platform it has given me.
I know that along with my other R2S role models, however small, we are making a difference in the lives of the young people to support them with careers advice, entrepreneurial skills, making positive choices and guidance to overcome obstacles.
I’ll leave you with a final thought; there are 8,760 hours in 1 calendar year. The commitment to undertake a set of three R2S Role Model sessions is 4 and half hours, which with travel to and from the schools averages out to a total of 10 hours. If the average person sleeps 8 hours a day, that equates to 2,920 hours of sleep in a year and leaves you with 5,840 hours to use on work and other personal activities.
So, the question to you is…what is a bit of flex, sacrifice and 10 hours of your time worth, if you knew it would not only make a difference to the lives of young people to set them on a better and brighter path, but also improve, change and enrich the direction of your life and those around you?
Author: Greg Bonsu
Greg Bonsu has worked in the investment and wealth management industry most of his career, progressing from an entry-level analyst through to senior managerial level. His focus is developing and empowering people of all races and ages. Greg’s main passions are fitness in general and sport, in particular, boxing.
He is a valuable member of the Routes2Success team, which works to support ethnic minority children & young people, aged 10 – 24 in London.
Routes2Success will be hosting a recruitment day on January 11th to help volunteers understand the programme better, meet other volunteers and start their mentoring and role-model with us. Register your interest below!