Meet the Mentors: Helen Ikumelo

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Meet the Mentors: Helen Ikumelo

The Path to Evolve

After completing her studies in psychology at university, Helen developed a keen interest in assisting individuals dealing with addiction. Recognising that many issues leading to addiction often originate during childhood, she felt drawn to working with children. Working as a Health Mentor enables her to implement preventive measures within schools, particularly for the most vulnerable children.

Helen had first hand experience of how mentoring could support young people, receiving support from a mentor during her own secondary school years. She now incorporates the lessons she learned during that time into her mentoring with children at the school where she is based. For Helen, this represents a fulfilling cycle of support, as she passes on the guidance that once aided her.

Highlights of being a Health Mentor

Helen’s favourite part of being a Health Mentor is the children she works with. She enjoys meeting them, getting to know them and supporting them on their personal growth journeys. Seeing improvements in their behaviour and helping them recognise their progress brings her a lot of happiness and fulfilment in her work.

She also likes that the role challenges her to step out of her comfort zone. Even though she’s naturally shy, Helen finds it easy to talk with the children she works with and understand them, which she finds really rewarding.

Challenges of being a Health Mentor 

One of the biggest challenges that Helen, similar to many of our Health Mentors, has faced is leaving a school that she’s been working in. Being a Health Mentor means getting to know the children’s unique stories and following them through their own development journeys. It becomes very easy to form an attachment with mentees, and saying goodbye to them can be hard. Helen recognises that this is part of the job, and while she and all Health Mentors often struggle with saying goodbye, they also try to mitigate the impact of them leaving on the mentees by making sure they have retained the skills they have learned and are able to keep developing independently.

Helen recently made the transition from mentoring at a primary school to a secondary school. This change presented Helen with several challenges that tested her. As she stepped into the role, she faced the pressure of taking over from a previous Health Mentor, which meant overcoming initial resistance from the students who struggled with the change. Recognising the urgency to establish a rapport, Helen swiftly took action to break the ice, connecting with the students on a personal level. Her adaptability shone through as she navigated the larger scale of the secondary school environment, where there were more students and more going on. Despite the constraints of a busy schedule, Helen ensured that every student felt seen and heard, even during critical periods such as exam preparation, demonstrating her commitment to providing meaningful support. Over time, her ability to adapt and connect with the students led to a remarkable transformation, as they quickly grew more comfortable and open around her, securing her reputation as a trusted mentor in her new secondary school.

Significant Achievements

Helen encountered a challenging situation in a primary school with a student who showed aggressive behaviour towards peers and teachers. Building rapport proved to be an uphill battle, as the student initially resisted her assistance. However, Helen’s persistence and empathetic approach gradually broke down the barriers, creating an environment where the student felt comfortable expressing himself. Over time, Helen helped him make remarkable progress, reducing his physical aggression and improving emotional communication skills. Helen’s dedication and unwavering commitment to her student’s wellbeing paved the way for a positive transformation, marking a significant milestone in his educational journey.

She also helped another pupil who was struggling to make friends and ended up acting out and antagonising other students. Helen was able to help her settle better into the class by working with her to improve her communication skills and express herself in different ways, so that she could make friends easier.

Why Health Mentors are so Important 

Helen believes that Health Mentors play a pivotal role in the school environment due to their keen attention to detail. They possess the ability to identify the children who require additional support, ensuring that no child falls through the cracks. Health Mentors, like Helen, are able to gain a deep understanding of each student’s experiences, uncovering insights into a child’s needs and directly supporting teachers in ensuring these needs are not missed. This holistic view allows Health Mentors to offer targeted assistance and support, contributing to the overall wellbeing and academic success of every child in their school.