The 18th Century Irish philosopher, Edmund Burke, wrote:
“No one could make a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little.”
The Trailblazers Mentoring Project
While a volunteer teaching Creative Writing in Feltham Young Offenders Institution, (which was then Europe’s largest high security prison for under-21s), I was incredibly fortunate to raise £150,000 so I could found the charitable mentoring-project, I called Trailblazers.
Our aim was to prepare youngsters for personal and working life after their release from custody, and to team them up with mentors who could help guide them through this difficult transition-time. Mentors would regularly correspond with and visit-in-prison the youngster they were supporting, 1 to 1, and continue this support when the young person left gaol.
At the project’s launch in 1998, it was a real boon to have the then Chief Inspector of Prisons, General Sir David Ramsbotham, as our ever-helpful Patron. This gentleman has continued to champion Trailblazers through the next 21 years and beyond.
The YoungLives research project
Having interviewed hundreds of highly accomplished individuals in 1999 and 2000, ranging in age from 16 to 70, I was able to set-up a free mentoring website called www.YoungLivesUK.com which is all about ‘How to make the most of life, and how to enjoy the journey‘.
For this face to face long-interview research, I was fortunate to be sponsored by the likes of Reuters News Agency, Nike, Channel 4 TV, Sony PlayStation, and Orange.
On the subject of ‘making the most of life‘, I enjoyed long interviews with each of a host of well-known individuals including Kate Adie (former BBC Head of News), Gary Lineker (former England soccer captain), Nick Hornby (novelist), Helen Fielding (novelist), General Sir Peter de la Billiere (former commander of the Special Air Service regiment), Bill Bryson (travel writer), Martha Lane Fox (founder of lastminute.com), John Madden (director of Shakespeare in Love), Barry Norman (film critic), Jamie Oliver (tv chef), and Sir Geoff Hampton (Headteacher).
I also enjoyed long interviews with top young professionals and their training directors at McKinsey & Co., Dell Computers, JP Morgan, The Rambert Dance Company; The Laban Dance Centre, The Slade Art School, The Royal College of Art, The Royal Marine Commandos, The Grenadier Guards, RAF Cranwell Flight Training School, and Sandhurst Military Academy.
I also conducted long interviews with many top A-level students and senior teachers from Eton, Gordonstoun, Oxford High School, The Manchester Grammar School, Rugby, Radley, Hills Road 6th Form College Cambridge, South Hampstead High School, Tonbridge Grammar School For Girls, and The William Ellis School (Kentish Town).