All Around The World It’s The Same Song: Starting A Mentoring Program in South Africa, Same Challenges…Same Rewards


Karen & Haley’s First Mentoring Sessions in South Africa!

SA NoteWhen I started reading this email message I received from Karen Nelson, I was astounded.  I work hard to share content and ideas that people find useful and engaging here on “KellyFairTheMentor.”  And, it was so rewarding and surprising to get a note from someone who was reading our blog, and who found me all the way in South Africa! Karen and her friend Hayley have partnered to begin establishing a mentoring program in their community in South Africa.  They’re in the very early stages of developing and implementing their pilot program, but they’ve done a whole lot of research, identified partners in the community,  and have been working on building their curriculum.

As I began communicating with and coaching Karen and Hayley, I found that it was so awesome that there were so many similarities between their story, and the stories of many other women that I meet and work with who are passionate about establishing their own mentoring initiatives, and giving back to their communities.  Karen and her partner Hayley have known each other for 15 years, having met while working as attorneys. Their careers took them along different paths and for the past 8 years Karen has mainly focused on her family ( 4 kids) and community work. Hayley moved into HR and has worked mainly for ad agencies.  Approximately 18 months ago, they realized that they shared the same passion to work with young ladies from disadvantaged communities.  Their vision for the program has gone through several metamorphoses and what started off as a finishing school concept has become more of a mentoring program with 3 components: 1. mentoring, with personal growth and the acquisition of a  few hard skills as its emphasis (in-house); 2. accredited skills development training (out-sourced); 3. job shadows/internships (corporations).
Sound familiar?  For me it did, It sounded very much like my own story as I began taking my first action steps in starting Polished Pebbles Girls Mentoring Program four years ago.  And their story sounded very similar to many of you in the mentoring community who are taking that leap into saying yes to the power of mentoring, and developing the mission and structure of your mentoring efforts with family, friends, and colleagues.  We have all done the analysis to determine the core needs of our youth,  and doing the planning to establish the programming to meet those needs.  In regards to recruiting volunteers, Karen and Haley have been targeting women from their own personal networks and older women in the communities that they plan on serving.  Sounds like a strategy many of us in youth and mentoring work here in the states have also implemented in our own communities.
Additionally, I also found it fascinating when Karen and Haley shared the challenges that girls were facing in their communities how they were almost identical to those of girls that we serve here in many of America’s inner cities:
  • teenage pregnancies
  • impact of gangsterism
  • dysfunctional homes
  • alcoholism and drug abuse
  • sub-standard levels of education

Karen and Haley were hesitant when I asked that they share pictures, because they felt they were too early on in establishing their mentoring program, and didn’t have the slick marketing material to properly present themselves.   But, I’m so thankful that they obliged, because there’s so much beauty and power in sharing these pictures, and their story of how they’re getting started.  It’s encouraging, because sometimes just getting started is actually the hardest part with running a mentoring program.  And, the learning and innovation in developing your program never stops.  I wanted to share their story because we’ve may have been where they are now, may currently be at this stage, or encouraged to move forward by the great amount of progress these two have already made.

I think we often mistakenly think that life on the other side of the globe has to be so starkly different than our own.  When I think about it, I’m reminded of the chorus from a song from the 90’s  from the rap group, Digital Underground.  The lyrics from the song accurately and wisely stated, “all around the world it’s the same song.”  And, it’s the same song when it comes to youth mentoring too, the same challenges, the same rewards, and the same experiences no matter where in the world we may be serving.  But, we all will continue to grow in our individual efforts, and our efforts as a GLOBAL mentoring community when we share the good, the bad, and the ugly of our growth process.  When one is successful and shares their knowledge then we all succeed.  Please enjoy the pictures of Karen, Haley, their volunteers, and mentees at their first sessions below!  I hope it serves as an inspiration.  Somebody else I know started off with two girls at their first mentoring session, and her name is KellyFairTheMentor!

Interested in receiving coaching from KellyFairTheMentor in your community or school mentoring efforts?  KellyFairTheMentor will be hosting a webinar in upcoming months.  What topic would you like to see discussed?  Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
Let’s Keep Sharing!

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