September 12, 2010

THE CLASS OF 2010: "Validation" and "failure to thrive" are very helpful concepts

IN JANUARY 2010, more than 40 volunteers underwent training to become mentors for the first time. The training sessions, conducted by Dr. Dave Pearson and Dr. Fiona Pearson with their customary aplomb, were held at the Indian Social Institute in Benson Town.

Thirty-four volunteers were later "matched" with children from across four partner NGOs across Bangalore (Adugodi, J.P. Nagar, Roopena Agrahara, and Chamrajpet). The four NGOs are Makkala Jagriti, Vishwas (part of Helpline Charitable Trust), Round Table School, and Auxilium Navajeevana Society.
  • In February 2010, 40 new mentoring relationships were facilitated — this includes former mentors who returned to start new relationships — while 15 previous mentoring relationships are continuing. More than half the mentees are girls, specifically 58%.
  • Today, 33 mentoring relationships are active, while two mentoring relationships were closed. Not unexpectedly, there were some setbacks — there were two child dropouts, three mentor dropouts, and 11 relationships that Dream A Dream is trying to get back on track (this includes children not reachable or potential mentor-child dropouts); alternatively, these relationships will be discontinued.


How beneficial were the training sessions? Ami Naik, a mentor from the Class of 2010, says, “The concept that became most ingrained in my mind was validation — that, as mentors, our job is not to form judgments or solve problems, but rather to listen actively and engage with our mentees so that they feel more comfortable sharing information about their lives."

Another helpful learning, says Ami, is the concept of failure to thrive. "Often, I encountered instances where my mentee would behave in a way I thought a younger child would. However, I recalled Dave and Fiona discussing this failure to thrive and telling us that this is often the result of the circumstances in which many of these children were raised. So I felt more prepared for my mentoring sessions.”

Ami also elaborated on how validation helped her to develop more fruitful conversations with her mentee, particularly in assessing her future career goals. "At first, my mentee discussed her desire to be a software engineer," says Ami. "After her tenth standard exam results were out, she indicated that her goal of being an engineer would not be possible so she thought of joining a tailoring course instead which would allow her to follow her mother’s path into the garment industry. She let on that it had been her original preference anyway."

Through many weeks of conversations using validation, Ami was able to get her mentee to open up and reveal that she had not been really sure about her career path; the goal of becoming a software engineer was more her mother's idea.

Ami adds that she has realised now that there are no easy answers or solutions. "However, validation helped me to develop deeper conversations with my mentee and allowed her to feel that she could open up to me without judgment from my end," says Ami. "I understood the impact I was having on her life by meeting her each week and simply being supportive and listening to her feelings and problems. This became even more apparent when she started calling me every week to determine a time we could meet that day, as opposed to mm having to reach out to her. Our meetings were truly something she looked forward to each week!”

Bhaskar Sharma, a senior mentor from the Class of 2008, has been attending refresher courses for mentoring at Dream A Dream every year since.

“I became more aware of a lot of concepts that I found useful not only in mentoring but in my day-to-day life," says Bhaskar. Notable among these, he says, is validation and child development.

"Also, the sessions drive home the fact that the mentoring sessions will not necessarily solve all the problems of the mentee, that it is useful to have an agreed plan to drive the interactions," he says.

Bhaskar is currently working with his third mentee and in all cases, he says, validation has helped increase the comfort factor between him and the mentee and also encouraged the mentee to open up. "I realised during my work with children through the Dream Mentoring Programme, that even though I felt I had not accomplished anything specific with them, just meeting them or speaking to them over the phone at agreed upon intervals was important to them," he says. "As Dave and Fiona emphasised, just showing up regularly is an achievement."

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