I am a firm believer that educating just one generation of kids will lead to self-sustenance and have a ripple effect through future generations too. Although I was teaching schools in rural India from 6 years, I always felt that I was unable to make a personal impact on these kids, talk through their challenges, motivating them to pursue their dreams.
When the mentoring opportunity form UE came in, I was super passionate about it since being a mentor is very powerful and to have the ability to personally contribute to the career aspirations of kids is very motivating. As soon as I was assigned my mentee, a 10th grader from a Govt high school, Shubha (name changed), I was very excited and decided to call her the next day. I remember the first call I made with Shubha, my heart racing and hopes high. But 5 minutes into the call, my heart sank as we had uncomfortable silences, her resistance to answer some of my questions, and suddenly me questioning if I’m really fit to do this job.
My disappointment doubled when I stopped hearing back from the kid on when we could talk. I was disheartened and reflected upon our call and soon realized these are kids who have very different backgrounds than our childhood, many times are intimidated. I realized, to be able to make real impact and have the kids open up to me, I first had to gain the child’s trust. Slowly, I started chatting with her on WhatsApp, commenting and encouraging her on her status posts, texting her with what she was up to and soon we were planning our next call. Over the next few calls, I dedicated time to get to know her and her interests, what she would like our conversations to be and I could feel her opening up to me.
In one of our calls, her father took the phone, spoke to me about Shubha, the challenges in the family and her aspirations. He was really glad that I was there to support her and was hoping I could lead her to where she wants to go. Speaking to her father also made me realize how important my role was and that motivated me even more. That day, I hung up the phone with a large smile on my face and instantly waiting for our next call.
During our next few calls, Shubha spoke to me about how she wanted to get 99% in 10th, how she had always been a top ranker but had challenges with English. We decided we would set aside 10 mins of our call to converse in English.
Today, as I wait for our next call, I am sitting with my book writing all the things I want to talk to her and waiting for the clock to strike 7pm, so I can talk to this kid, share her stories, share my stories, motivate her to achieve her dreams and hopefully cast a smile on both our faces! Looking at the impact of this, I have started a similar program in my other NGO where I talk to a few selected rural kids once a month to see how they are doing and mentor them. I am looking forward to standing by these kids as they become successful and achieve their dreams and be able to continue the gift of education for their future generations.Image by Freepik