“I believe that children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way. Show them all the beauty they possess inside.”
- Whitney Houston
However in India that line would be such a cliché. Here one would find countless people of varying statuses blowing out similar lines from their social trumpet imitating expressions of care and concern for the “future of the nation”. However little do they know what they are actually talking about.
Every parent desires the best education for their children. So does the illiterate maid, hardworking driver, the sincere watchman and many daily wage earners in our society. While our children grow up in comfortable and secure environments more than 40000 children grow up in hazardous environments in Mumbai with hardly any supervision. Even if they are sent to school their teachers fail to give them individual attention. Hence don’t be surprised if they end up embracing bad habits and committing horrendous crimes as poverty with lack of proper care and guidance are to blame.
The mere presence of parents and teachers are not enough for the upbringing and development of a child. Just like a river needs river banks to show its way to the sea, its destination, so do children need a mentor. For children a mentor is a friend, a motivator, an inspiration, a genie who teaches them to believe in their dream, to believe in themselves. How remarkable would it be if such children in the prime age of nourishment and development are exposed to such exemplary group of people who aim to be the first national mentoring organisation in India in the name of Mentor Me India.
When right minded and passion-driven individuals from India and US are brought together to dedicate themselves towards the development of young children that cult would be of the likes of Mentor Me India (MMI) – non-profit mentoring organization based out of Mumbai. Their mission is to help children in low-income communities grow to their full potential by supporting enduring one-to-one relationships with strong role models.
The notion of MMI sprouted in the mind of Dayoung Lee, the founder, amidst her academia stint at the Harvard School of Business where it was further incubated. MMI took birth in India in 2013 with a Harvard-India dream team. Plus, the success of community-based mentorship model of ‘Big Brothers Big Sisters’ proved to be good catalyst to initiate this venture with the appropriate alterations suiting the Indian context. Talking about the dream team at work, they have extensive strategy management consulting experience, including non-profit and international development consulting, experience in the education sector globally and in India, and finance, marketing and legal backgrounds from organisations like McKinsey, Dalberg Global Development Advisors, Teach for India and Akanksha Foundation.
The mentoring programs at MMI are interesting and fun for both the mentors and mentees. Elaborate recruitment processes are conducted for mentor and mentees. Young female and male professionals are invited and encouraged to join the program through corporate partners, social media outlets, alumni groups and personal networks. An online mentor application form is also available in the MMI site www.mentormeindia.org. Based on teacher’s recommendations at non-profit organisations like Teach for India and Akanksha Foundation, mentees, boys and girls aged between 9-12 years are selected and enrolled to the program.
Mentors and mentees ought to meet and spend 4 hours per month with each other. Mentors are free to design their own activities, be it a game of cricket or read a book, through which they strike a bond with mentees eventually being a trusted advisor and motivator to them. Mentors further help the children identify their potential, install faith and confidence in them and bring their best forward. As an outcome mentees develop as capable youngsters who celebrate their talents and achieve their dreams. With this mentors also receive a unique opportunity to impact the life trajectory of a child’s life forever.
In India’s commercial city, Mumbai, MMI is progressing at a rapid pace. In 2013-14 MMI partnered with the Akanksha Foundation and launched a successful pilot project for 30 girls. In 2014, they forged ahead and expanded to three more schools and now support 120 mentor-mentee pairs in Goregaon, Dadar and Bhandup. The programs have been well received by mentees who have shown 95% attendance. Not only that all mentors continue to work with MMI, 500 new mentor applications have been received by the organisation. After attaining 120 mentor-mentees active pairs in 2014, MMI has set to achieve a target of 300 in 2015.
After hours of one-to-one interaction both mentors and mentees enjoy mutual benefits in personality. A strong sense of self esteem and renewed confidence has positively reflected in the academics and career goals of the mentees. MMI programs have empowered mentees to such an extent that they initiated a mini mentoring program in their schools where the mentees would mentor younger pupils. These children were then able to cope better with life crisis like death or relocation.
Mentors, on the other hand, have also benefitted from the experience. On an average of 70% of mentors have enhanced communication skills and feel more productive at work. Many of them choose to continue mentoring their mentee for another year.
MMI is definitely a stupendous project in India beyond doubts. If you love kids and want to do your bit for them MMI would take you in open arms. After all there are still many children who are awaiting your guidance.