Make a difference – be a mentor

Supporting vulnerable young women is the goal of a local charity seeking more volunteers to help with a workload increased by the pandemic. Ruby Gregory talked to founder Trisha Muirhead

Trisha Muirhead (left) and charity members celebrate a donation to the Ashdon Jazz Academy

A local charity that supports the emotional wellbeing and mental health of vulnerable young women is calling for more volunteers to provide mentoring support.

The Ashdon Jazz Academy needs women aged over 25 from Lambeth and Merton to help as a result of Covid-19 creating a greater demand for mentors.

Secondary school teacher Verona has mentored three young women through the charity.

She says: “It’s really incredible. You don’t know how many people you can influence.

“Whenever I can, I volunteer. I think giving back is very important, if we can, we should.”

All mentors require a DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) check and receive training before starting.

Verona tells the Brixton Blog that mentors must be good communicators and listeners for the 11-to-21-year-olds who need their support.

“Most of our young ladies just need someone to sit there and let them talk,” she says

Mentors check-in on their mentee regularly and meet together once a week.

However, Covid-19 restrictions mean one-on-one meetings have adapted to remote phone calls and messaging.

“We have seen an increased demand for our service,” says Ashdon Jazz Academy founder Trisha Muirhead. ”It’s unsurprising given all that has happened with the pandemic and its impact on young people’s mental health.”

According to YoungMinds, a mental health charity, 87% of young people who have previously struggled with mental health felt lonely or isolated during the first lockdown period. 

A YoungMinds summer 2020 survey also found that 80% of young people agreed that Covid-19 had made their mental health worse. 

Trisha Muirhead founded Ashdon Jazz Academy in 2015 after her teenage daughter, Ashdon tragically took her own life in 2014. 

The charity has helped 200 young women through a series of mentoring, workshops, weekly check-ins and a self-confidence programme. 

A workshop for academy members

Shemmaira, now a masters student, joined in 2016, after suffering from low self-esteem and difficulties with public speaking.

“My experience as a member has been incredible,” she says.

“This has been what’s missing, and has helped me get to where I need to be.”

Shemmaira completed the self-confidence programme and improved her public speaking, she also wrote her CV and university applications with help from Ashdon Jazz Academy.

“Mentoring our young women really makes the difference,” says Trisha Muirhead.

If you are interested in volunteering as a mentor contact:

Find out more at the Ashdon Jazz Academy website