June 28, 2011

RP-6: Mentoring Stories (from the Reflective Practice Session of May 22)

This is a collection of stories and updates received at one of the mentor group meetings* at a partner centre in Bangalore.

Some of the topics covered here are likely to be similar to experiences mentors have had with their mentees: mentee not turning up for scheduled meetings; conflict with other youths in the community; financial difficulties; losing someone else’s cellphone; difficulty in getting time alone with the mentee; mentee’s use of rude or abusive language; mentee lying to a parent; mentee declining a request to go out, etc.


Bharghav mentors Mathew, a 19-year-old from Anepalya. Bharghav has been meeting Mathew for about three months now.

Mathew, a school drop-out who works at a two-wheeler service centre, is not interested in academics or in going back to school. He lives with his parents and older brother; his father is a church preacher. He has been coming to the community centre for a few years now.

In the meetings they have had, Bharghav felt that Mathew seemed to be quite outgoing and they get along well. He seemed very comfortable talking with Bharghav.

Although Bharghav was away for a few weeks he was getting married he was in touch with Mathew over the phone. When Mathew lost his phone in the interim, he made sure he called Bharghav and informed him.

During their meetings, Mathew usually talks about his work and his friends and interests. Bharghav shares updates with Mathew about his family and work. However, Mathew has not talked yet about his family. Nor does he seem comfortable talking about his decision to drop out of school. He seems to be going to church and seems okay with his family’s inclination towards the church.

Recently, Mathew mentioned that his family was shifting to a new house partly constructed by the government for poor people and slum dwellers.

Bharghav felt one of the challenges was scheduling meetings, as both their work timings meant they are free only after 6 p.m. He also felt perhaps he needed to meet Mathew more often to catch up on missed meetings last month while he was busy with his wedding.

Reflections from the Group: 

  • Bharghav should continue more conversations and meetings in the same manner. It seems as though there is a rapport building between the two already, which is encouraging. It’s nice to see Mathew making an effort to stay in touch with Bharghav.
  • It’s maybe a little disappointing for Bharghav when his mentee seems very open about one aspect of his life and suddenly closes up when it comes to another. With time, Mathew will gradually start to open up further about his family or his past. So Bharghav needs to be patient. Young people need time to get comfortable enough with someone to talk about family, background, or their past, especially if it’s a troubled past. That is many mentees prefer to talk about the good things and avoid anything that shows them in  poor light.
  • Perhaps some thought needs to go into scheduling meetings so that it works out for both parties, maybe different timings with the permission of the centre staff, or perhaps the two could meet on Sundays.


Priya mentors Soumya, an 18-year-old from Adugodi, who is pursuing her pre-university course (PUC). Priya has been meeting her mentee for about four months now.

Soumya lives with her parents and older sister in Adugodi and she also has a younger sister who lives with her grandmother in Koramangala. Soumya has been visiting the community centre for many years now and recently started volunteering part-time.

When she meets Priya, Soumya usually talks about her day, her work at the community centre, or the other activities they organise there for youngsters and children. She seems interested in, and committed to, her studies; she is also keen on improving her English and asks Priya to clear her doubts whenever she is unsure of certain words or sentences.

Recently they visited a book store and Soumya, who was very comfortable browsing through different books, enjoyed the visit.

Priya noticed that on some days Soumya appeared really tired. Soumya revealed later that she would skip a meal sometimes as she didn’t like the food at home. However, she would always accept snacks or lunch offered by Priya.

In another conversation, Soumya told Priya that she had thought in the past of quitting her school and, later, PUC course to start working. At that time, she had heard about a short-term course in hotel management. However, after conversations with others at the community centre, she decided it was not a good idea and changed her mind.

Priya felt that sometimes there Soumya tended to be introverted. She rarely started a conversation; it was always Priya who did so. Sometimes Priya felt that they would run of out topics to talk about and that she had to always initiate a conversation. Soumya rarely talked about her family or parents or her interests.

It seemed as though Soumya’s mother was the one taking major decisions in the family. Soumya mentioned once that her mother was not keen on her going to college. However, Soumya’s older sister goes to evening college and works part-time at a book store.

Priya felt sometimes it was hard to get time alone with Soumya as there were small children always around at the centre. But she was happy that Soumya was always turning up for meetings or calling up to check if she was coming, and she showed a lot of interest in meeting Priya.

Reflections from the Group:

  • It’s true that it can sometimes be a challenge to get some time alone with one’s mentee at the community centre if other children hang around. Nevertheless, Priya can keep trying, perhaps use one of the smaller rooms, or the space by the veranda or the stairs or the other office space nearby.
  • Although Priya leads the conversations most of the time, Soumya shows up for most meetings and looks forward to meetings and follows up with Priya. So she seems interested in spending time with Priya. Sometimes it may be frustrating when you do not receive much feedback from your mentee or your mentee does not open up as soon as you expect. Perhaps Soumya needs some time. Or maybe it’s her nature to be introverted. We may have to accept that and work with what we can. Even then, Soumya still talks to Priya about certain aspects of her life, which is good.
  • For example, Priya could follow up on some of the leads that already exist, such as Soumya’s interest in hotel management or her plans after PUC, her interest to improve her English and her day-to-day updates from college or at the community centre. Sometimes mentees are not sure how their mentors can help. So maybe we have to demonstrate this by bringing up the topic.
  • Certain observations such as Soumya’s mother’s opposition to her studying further, her younger sister living with her grandmother, the lack of any mention of her father, and her habit of skipping meals are important. These may be areas that are difficult to talk about at the moment but information related to these areas may come up in other conversations. It will be useful to keep notes about these aspects of her life.

  • Compiled by Jeeno P. Jacob, Programme Anchor — Dream Mentoring Programme | Dream A Dream

* Once a month, mentor meetings are organised by Dream A Dream. The session is a forum to discuss challenges and seek support and advice from fellow mentors, senior mentors, and Dream A Dream

** Names of mentees have been changed to protect their identity and maintain anonymity.

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