By Volunteers Siddharth Dash (FHI Jaipur) and Shritama Sarkar (FHI Bangalore)
“Be who you needed when you were younger.”
The sheer beauty about mentorships beyond their fruitful benefits is the way in which these relationships unfurl. They don’t always have a tag where the mentor and mentee explicitly define their roles to each other or are aware of it. They can formulate naturally, subconsciously, perhaps in the form of a friendship, or even sheer coincidence. A mentor can even be fictional in nature, say, a character in a cartoon show a child looks up to and learns from. Sometimes it doesn’t even involve words, just deeds and actions. The only thing binding these things together, is the beautiful relationship between them, and the outcome of the process of mutual growth that arises out of it.
The process of writing this led to a couple of personal revelations.
Back in May 2019, in my first FHI event at Manna’s home, Jaipur. We had engaging activities with the children, but in that vivacious crowd of children, sat one boy, silent and lost. I had an eerie feeling of deja-vu but brushed it off and tried to talk to him. After a few attempts, the boy hesitantly opened up telling me about his troubled past and how he ended up in the shelter home. He felt very out of place and couldn’t communicate in Hindi as well as the other children did, and naturally, felt left out. I spent the rest of the time in the event doing activities with him and trying to blend him in with other children.
The day ended for me with a feeling of bitter sweetness consisting of satisfaction as well as an uneasiness about the circumstances of most of the children in that shelter house. It’s only now, when I write about this experience after more than a year that I realize that the feeling of deja-vu was that I was exactly like this child in my first days in college. The only difference being that I was fortunate enough to have a senior in the form of a friend and a mentor to lift me out of my difficulties and instil a sense of purpose and direction in the peak of my formative years in academia.
Having studied outside India all my life, coming back to study here was a huge culture shock. On realising that merely speaking the same language wasn’t nearly enough to blend in, I built a wall around myself, eventually affecting my grades and social life severely.
“आप जैसे लड़के इंजीनियर नहीं बन सकते।“ (boys like you cannot become an engineer), said my maths professor to me in her cabin in front of tens of students.
On the day that seemed like rock bottom for me, such harsh words were a topic of discussion among students in my branch. Fortunately for me, it happened to hit the ears of a senior who reached out to help me out. This unfurled into a solid friendship and a relationship characterised by synergy effectively saving me from prolonged failure and self-obstruction.
The second revelation, indeed, is the fact that this fruitful friendship between us was a form of a mentor-mentee relationship. More importantly, it also extends to the fact that relationships like these are needed the most for underprivileged children.
Many children who come from underserved and underprivileged backgrounds are at the verge of losing hope, and at that moment, only a mentor can hold their hands. Those children are unattended because their parents are at work all day to feed them. Their homes, quite many times, lack the comfort, friendly and encouraging atmosphere due to the lack of time spent together and parents being unable to help the children with their studies. A mentor helps those kids who have immense potential if taken out of the poverty of opportunities, to grow abundantly.
A beautiful flower of mutual growth arises out of such a relationship. The benefits linger on long after the mentor and mentee have parted ways.
Benefits for the Child
Higher Self-Esteem and Morale
A mentor aids a child to bring out the best in her and recognize her strengths and potential. This is required to keep the child’s morale high and keep inspired so that the child doesn’t end up dropping out of school, which is a major concern for those from underprivileged background.
Many children struggle to maintain self-esteem and confidence in them. This is where a mentor comes in to show what treasure they hold in themself. And this discovery would remain with them for the entire life.
Improved Behaviour and Performance
Children from underserved backgrounds often lack a modelling figure to guide them how to act, behave and perform. Having a mentor in such situations is very helpful because it aids immensely in the proper grooming of the child, thus maintaining stability in her life as well as in the society.
A mentor’s support helps the child focus on school, stay on track and complete their homework which otherwise could be impaired due to the lack of guidance at home.
Benefits for the Mentor
Deeper Understanding of Children
Adult mentors could be parents or going-to-be parents. A major benefit the mentors gain is a deeper understanding of children. They start understanding their behaviour patterns and also understand that this varies from child to child and time to time. Mentoring requires patience, nurture and a lot of love.
They learn to respect a child’s boundaries, build trust and form lasting relationships. These experiences they carry over to their personal lives as well which in turn help them strengthen relationships with children in their lives.
Personal Fulfilment and Improved Self Esteem
In the chaos of busy routine, mentoring allows adults to give something of themselves that is selfless and truly fulfilling. They watch their mentees’ lives improve in which they had a role to play, the result of their love and guidance. This in itself, is rewarding.
Along with the children, mentors too experience an improvement in their self-esteem. For them as well, it’s a journey of discovery and what they find, is a treasure to keep along the entire life.
Fly Higher (FHI) invites such passionate adults who are longing to give their time and knack to connect with those innocent children who are less privileged to bring out their true potential and light up their worlds!