In 2016, I received a Whatsapp message from a close friend about a mentorship program she was a part of…
For a person who rarely opens links on Whatsapp, I am glad I opened the link that said an organization called Mentor Me India was looking for mentors. After I conducted a little research, with great anticipation and excitement I applied for the mentorship program.
Mentor Me India (MMI) is an organization that aims to empower children in low-income communities through a year-long mentorship program. They match children from partner schools and NGOs to people who wish to mentor those children, like myself! An interview and few background checks later I was selected to be a mentor. That was the start to my amazing journey with Mentor Me India.
The program includes one-on-one mentoring as well as group mentoring sessions wherein mentors meet their mentees for at least 6 hours every month. I am mentoring a 12-year-old, Tanvi from A B Goregaokar School in Goregaon, a sprightly and feisty girl. Over the last one year, I have had the most enriching and fulfilling experience while mentoring Tanvi.
When I had signed up, I had no idea over a span of 1 year; I would be learning Origami through YouTube videos, talking about the solar system and parts of the body in broken Marathi, learning sketching through Vincent Van Gogh sketch books or playing Jenga and Kho-Kho on Sunday afternoons. Nor did I know that I would be learning about gender bias, non-conventional career aspirations or rights and duties of a good citizen.
At MMI we aim to inculcate self-awareness, social interaction, aspirations and good citizenship in our mentees. The experience of mentoring with MMI was not special only because I could introduce Tanvi to various arts, sports and games. Neither was it because I could teach a child how to interact socially or about the difference between a good and bad touch. It was not special because she learned about her family tree or the significance of Indian festivals. What has made mentoring so special is what Tanvi and I have taken back as memories and experiences.
Amongst the 100 other mentors along with me, there were women who were of my mother’s age and wished to make a difference to someone’s life. Learning the various reasons why people chose to start mentoring was such a heartwarming experience! In today’s fast-paced world it was heartening for me to interact with people from different backgrounds and interests, coming together just to make a difference in someone else’s life. What I learned while mentoring was also how impressionable children are and how important it is for adults to teach and guide children on to the right path.
One balmy afternoon, Tanvi and I were running out of things to talk about, and we chanced upon a shop selling mehendi cones. I applied mehendi on her hand. A month later I noticed she had the same mehendi design drawn on her hand. On my asking, she said she had copied the exact same design I had made on her hand and had been practicing applying mehendi on her friends and family. At moments like these, I was overwhelmed by how my behavior and actions were being observed and the importance of setting a good example dawned on me.
One of the other defining and exhilarating moments was when Tanvi called me one evening and said that she wished to take English as her primary language in school. She said, “Didi main kar paungi na?Mujhe nahin aayega toh aap sikhaoge? Mujhe English seekhna hai”. [“Didi, will I be able to do it? If I do not understand, will you teach me? I want to learn English”]
Mentoring is a selfless act but when I see Tanvi becoming more confident and aware, I cannot ask for anything more. Instances like when she was selected to sing the national anthem on Republic Day in school or when while talking about good citizenship she said discrimination on the basis of religion is a bad thing, have made this journey worthwhile.
Benjamin Franklin said, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn”. Mentoring with MMI has been exactly this – involving and interacting with mentees for their holistic development without preaching or lecturing. While I had joined MMI without any selfish motives, I must admit I have gained much more than I gave. I have met so many people who selflessly and tirelessly work to make a difference to society. While I can also claim to have learned patience and science (just so I can answer the endless questions posed by Tanvi about the universe and biology), most importantly I have learned perseverance, humility and the ability to celebrate small victories with great gusto. Mentoring is not only a satisfying and humbling experience but also an enriching and fun-filled journey.
Note: This article was written by Namrata Patel, a mentor with Mentor Me India, and has been modified since. The story originally featured on DNA India.