By Volunteers Uppasana Baruah (FHI Guwahati) and Suyog Ingle (FHI Nagpur)
“In order to be a mentor, and an effective one, one must care. You must care. You don’t have to know how many square miles are in Idaho [U.S. state known for mountainous landscapes], you don’t need to know what is the chemical makeup of chemistry, or of blood or water. Know what you know and care about the person, care about what you know and care about the person you’re sharing with.” — Maya Angelou [American poet]
The concept of a mentor can be traced at least as far back as Homer’s Odyssey. In the ancient Greek epic, the wisdom goddess Athena took the form of a man called ‘Mentor’ to assume the guardianship of the young prince Telemachus while his father, Odysseus, was away fighting the Trojan War. This Mentor of Telemachus was referred to as a kind, supportive, nurturing, a trusted adviser, and guide.
Today, although we have come a long way from Homer’s description of Mentor, the denotation or extension of the word remains the same. Thus, a Mentor can be defined as, “someone who teaches or gives help and advice to a less experienced and often younger person”.
Mentor has numerous and varied roles to play when it comes to mentorship. However, below are three key roles which can be considered of extreme importance and are popularly referred to as 3Cs of mentorship-
- Consultant: Through the role of a consultant, the mentor shares his invaluable knowledge of real-world experience with the mentees.
- Counselor: As a counselor, the mentor listens to the mentees and gives them constructive feedback and advice, and guides them to achieve what they aspire for.
- Cheerleader: Mentor in the role of a cheerleader becomes the support system for their mentees and keeps their enthusiasm high even in the lowest point of their life.
Needless to say, the aforementioned roles of a mentor bear the power to transform a mentee into a successful noble. But here if the mentee is a child then the question arises-
How valuable is a mentor to a child, especially from an underprivileged background?
Well, a mentor is undoubtedly valuable in one’s life but his value is multi-fold when it comes to mentoring a child belonging to an underprivileged background. And below are a few of those reasons that signify this-
- Educational incompetency of family members of a child: Being from an underprivileged background, it is certain that the child may not get the adequate imperative advisory while growing up because of the unavailability of a good advisor. Since the parents from the underprivileged background are barely educated, they wouldn’t be able to advise and mold their child for a better future as good as an expert mentor can! This justifies the value of a mentor to an underprivileged child.
- Incorrect approach to the problems of a child: As the child undergoes different hormonal and behavioral changes during his transformation from child to adult, he may face various unspeakable problems while experiencing the same. To listen, manage, and resolve these problems effectively, one should have a pragmatic approach to be able to look at them from the child’s point of view. But typically, we find the lack of pragmatism in underprivileged families due to educational incompetence and this gap of an incorrect approach can easily be bridged by a good mentor having adequate knowledge and experience. Thus, the presence of a mentor adds value to the life of an underprivileged child.
- Less familiarity with the dynamism of the world: Mostly the underprivileged families have sensitive financial conditions which make them focus less on the dynamism of the surroundings, changing demands of the competitive world, etc. Consequently, families fail to transfer the essential deliverables to the child making them vulnerable to the future. This void can be filled by a good mentor making an underprivileged child aware, competent, and future-ready!
Even from ancient times, the tales of mentoring have proven the inexplicable value of guidance. For instance, in the ancient Indian epic Mahabharata, Lord Krishna guided and mentored the great warrior Arjuna to win the war of Mahabharata. Also, the great Mauryan Emperor-Chandragupta Maurya was the only one who conquered almost all 16 Mahajanapadas and the guidance of Chanakya was instrumental for his success.
In essence, be it past or present; the value of a Mentor is incomparable!