Stronger than ever

With applications for the next cohort of our mentoring programme open (23 May to 15 June 2015), we hear from former mentee Ceris Bailes on her experience of the scheme.

Having lived overseas for almost a decade and prior to that having served in the armed forces, I had never previously been politically active – apart from being a member of the Fabian Society and possessing a strong desire to see a Labour government returned. When the applications opened I was slowly making the transition back home. This intended permanent move galvanised me, as I had a quite clear vision of the ‘home’ that I wanted to return to – and it was not the UK under David Cameron.

I was not very hopeful for my application to the scheme – I was aware that I had done some interesting jobs, but I was convinced that my application would be returned with a (hopefully, polite) note asking that I reapply when I could demonstrate that I had at least engaged actively with UK politics sometime this decade! To say that I was surprised when my application was accepted is an understatement.

Fast forward to where I am now, having just completed the mentoring scheme – I have a stronger-than-ever interest in politics and a desire to contribute as much as I can. I have a supportive network of friends and contacts gained through the mentoring scheme – every single one of them with fascinating experiences and varied and diverse skill sets. Such is the mentoring scheme, it does not end here; I know that this network will remain and I feel very privileged to be a part of it.

But, the mentoring scheme offered me so much more – within weeks of joining I found myself out on the doorstep for the first time supporting one of the group’s (successful) bids for a council seat – as I write now I have spent many hours walking the streets of south London supporting parliamentary and council candidates. With the upcoming mayoral elections, I may just try to break out north of the river…

The trip to the European parliament in Brussels offered a fascinating insight into European politics and it was a surprise to me how interesting I found this area, now I understood it better. The scheme offered the chance to network with women who had key roles in public life: another surprise to me is that I am now seeking a non-executive position on a board, having been given the confidence and means to do so. I seem to have a newfound enthusiasm for debating through the FWN public speaking events, designed to help participants gain confidence in a supportive environment.

Finally, the scheme would be nothing without the amazing women who support it – the two coordinators and the dozens of MPs and others from all walks of life who give up their time to make the scheme the success that it is. All of them are friendly, supportive, approachable and above all inspirational. My cohort had its final debrief recently, and one of the group suggested the scheme had been ‘life-changing’. At the time I thought perhaps not in my case, but then again…

Ceris Bailes was a mentee on the FWN Mentoring Programme’s 2014-15 cohort.

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Click here for more information on our mentoring programme and how to apply.

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