Story: Michelle Cook
These days, with many people relocating away from family, people are not as close to their neighbours as they used to be. When problems occur there is often no one to talk to and gain support.
Mediation Sheffield (MESH) is a free mediation service available to Sheffield Homes tenants and residents in the Burngreave New Deal area. The service helps people involved in neighbourhood disputes – such as falling out over noise or rubbish. MESH hears both sides and helps people come to an agreement. It is not legally binding. Sometimes people agree to be referred to other agencies.
MESH is looking for volunteers, especially people from different ethnic backgrounds who are available during the day or in the evenings. I interviewed MESH volunteer Lyn Brandon to find out what is involved.
Lyn has been a volunteer for four years. First she had to undertake accredited training, which can either be a full week, or one day or evening a week for up to 9 weeks. It is taught by trainers who are experienced in the field of mediation and involves role-play. Next Lyn shadowed more experienced mediators, some of whom are paid staff.
Lyn said she’d been involved with cases involving neighbours, some former friends who had fallen out over issues such as noise, fences and general differences and lack of understanding about each others’ lifestyles. People either refer themselves or are referred via Sheffield Homes though involvement is voluntary. Ultimately people want peace in their homes and are looking for a way that both parties can move forward. Sometimes the most helpful thing is to have someone listen to their grievance as they often feel isolated.
I wondered what qualities she felt were need to be a mediator. Lyn said:
“You need to be interested in people, a good listener and being able to reflect back what has been discussed. It is very important to remain neutral.”
In her time as a mediator Lyn has a great deal of satisfaction from the interesting work and would recommend anyone to look into applying and undergoing the training.
If you are interested in this valuable work and would like to become a volunteer, the next training session starts on 13th October. For details please contact Fiona Jervis at Mediation Sheffield (MESH) for an application form on 241 2774 or email email@example.com.