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  • Writer's pictureMarama Alliance UK

Mentoring Matters (Finale)


If you light a lamp for someone it will also brighten your own path.' - Buddhist Proverb.

Dear members,

I've been procrastinating on this final post to this blog series, pondering on 'Next Steps' for this Mentoring Programme. The feedback on the previous posts were overwhelmingly encouraging and in true Pacific Island fashion we don't hold back on compliments. But it left me wondering about what next? Now that the hype has died down, drowned out by COVID 19, after a few weeks of reflection I had something to write about.

COVID19 has been a blessing and a curse, of mega proportions. Social media has become the lifeline for our connectedness, bringing latest COVID19 updates, showing support for frontline healthcare staff, providing comfort through virtual prayers and messages of hope, and new coping mechanisms to starve boredom (Tiktok vids, IG stories, new memes etc). Each day we are increasingly turning to our phones and TV for fear of missing out (FOMO).

So it got me thinking how COVID19 has been a blessing in disguise. Its a period of grace, an unexpected one where we are given the privilege to pause and reflect, and perhaps pursue something we set aside for too long now, like a hobby or spring cleaning - the list is endless. Homeschooling has been a new experience for me (and most of you) which I feel couldn't have come at an opportune time. I always wanted to know what it felt like, and now I have a wider appreciation for teachers and enhanced understanding of how my child learns. I feel more like a mentor these days, than a mother! But the crucial message for me here is how they become adaptable through these unprecedented times which is a huge blessing. And also for us as a community, how adaptable we are and willing to make the best of any situation. Okay, so I digress here but I'll get to my point soon.

I want to take a moment to share some of my own observations:

1. It took a bold move (albeit naive) to propose a mentoring programme, but I strongly believed in its potential for building capacity amongst our community. I wasn't sure if a community such as ours was prepared but to counter that I felt a pilot would help gauge that preparedness. The initial response was positive and manageable.

2. One thing I wanted to ensure was some element of 'meeting halfway', which I felt is a reasonable requirement and useful in measuring the success of a mentoring relationship. And by this, if anyone was interested in becoming a mentor or mentee, they had to send us an email expressing their interest or area of support required. It also took out the 'leg' out of the legwork needed to match up mentor and mentee, to avoid so much communication going back and forth to establish a way forward.

3. It was important to get the key messages out regarding mentoring, its confidential and flexible. Its beneficial for both parties, and like anything in life, its also equally true in that you get out of it what you put in into it. I felt a degree of autonomy was the best way to manage this process, empowering both mentor and mentee to take control of their relationship with minimum support from myself, only when necessary.

4. I received invaluable feedback from a mentee about not getting sufficient checks throughout from myself. I took the liberty of taking that extra work off her as the whole mentoring is focused on her achieving her personal goals which I felt was enough on her plate to manage. And also that the responsibility was on the mentors to feedback any concerns or updates which was entirely optional. But I felt that, overall, striking the right balance between progress reviews and autonomy was achieved here.

5. There were a few people who expressed interest in becoming a mentor or mentee. However, due to personal circumstances, they were not able to proceed with the mentoring. I hope that they will return to our mentoring program, or have received mentoring support elsewhere. Its quite a daunting process, trying to match a mentor and mentee, in the hopes that there is no prejudice or unconscious bias but that everyone who signs up is openminded and genuinely passionate about personal development, theirs and those they're helping.

6. I felt that the experiences of mentoring a young person has enormous potential here and is one I would like to see grow. The feedback was superb and on point, realising that it took a different approach and required more active listening was quite useful. As adults we have preconceived notions on how to mentor a young person, we have some much knowledge we are ready to lay onto them. But this doesn't always happen to be the case, its quite humbling actually. And this is where the magic happens, when both mentor and mentee find humility to allow the process of self discovery to begin.

In a book I read recently, regarding the BAME (Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic) community,

they were more likely than white people to take up mentoring support and have always sought role models in their own community to help develop their careers or some aspect of their lives (faith or family), they recognise that the odds are stacked up and will take up any help they can get. I wondered if this is a true picture for our Fijian and Pacific Island community?

To that end, I leave it to you my dear readers to ponder and reflect on how you'd like to shape and form this mentoring programme. Invitations remain open to anyone interested in becoming a mentor or mentee. The same rules apply, send us an expression of interest and confidentiality is maintained at all times. If you want to share your own mentoring experience, from elsewhere - please get in touch, we'd love to publish it here.

Mentoring is not limited to career development. If you simply break it down, its about sharing expert knowledge, giving non judgemental advice or tips, providing a listening ear or sounding board, problem solving or figuring out next steps, strengthening relationships, forming new friendships, stepping out of your comfort zones, paying it forward, maintaining interconnectedness, spiritual fulfilment and above all - extending ourselves in a real and authentic way to another human being.

One thing I've learned from this COVID19 experience, is that people have come out in droves and masses to share the burden, spread joy and happiness, in any way they can...resilience and resourcefulness at its best! But when you're not watching or listening, or not caught up in the hype...let's remember how adaptable we are and what else we can do with our COVID19 self-isolating time? Perhaps we can take the time to reflect on how to give back, we will need to come back fighting once this is all over....

Vinaka and stay safe, at home.


Leonora x

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