October 31, 2011

RP 10 - Mentoring Stories ( from the Reflective Practice Session 18.09.2011)

This is a collection of stories discussed at one of the mentor group meetings in September at one of the partner centers.


Sandeep mentors Abdul, a 16-year-old from Roopena Agrahara, pursues a pre-university course in science. He lives with his parents and his father has a small shop near their home. They have been meeting for 8 months now. Read more about them in previous post here.

Abdul seems to be doing okay in his junior college. Nothing has come up yet on this front.

In the past, Abdul had shared his interest towards automobiles and indicated a desire to pursue automotive engineering. Sandeep and Abdul frequently have conversations around this interest area.

They recently visited an ‘auto show’ together along with Sandeep’s son. Abdul enjoyed this trip and seemed to be very curious about different vehicles. He spent a lot of time observing everything around. Towards the end, when asked what brand or type of vehicle he liked the most he said, the BMW. 

Although Abdul is generally very shy and speaks very little, he seemed to be most comfortable with any conversation around automobiles. Sandeep recalled that during one of their visits to a mall, Abdul identified cars in the parking lot and they played a small game around identifying the cars.

Another day, they visited a flower show at Lalbagh park. Abdul enjoyed this visit as well.

Sandeep however mentioned a concern about Abdul not really opening up as much as he expected in the time they have spent. He felt that he continued to drive or initiate most of the conversations rather than Abdul. However he admitted there were instances where Abdul was able to assertively respond. Abdul also sends an SMS to Sandeep most days.  

Reflections from the Group:
  •  It’s nice to see that Sandeep continues to revolve conversations and activities around Abdul’s areas of interest as he has in the past( for example Abdul’s interest for art)
  •  It’s understandable that when one’s mentee does not open up one would feel concerned/frustrated. But perhaps that’s the way Abdul is, as a person. He may be shy or reserved. Perhaps he has a challenge communicating or expressing himself as a result of language since Sandeep admitted they speak to him in English.
  • A suggestion would be to attempt conversations in Hindi as Abdul’s other tongue was Urdu. Interestingly he does send SMS’s. Maybe he’s just not much of talker and we should be patient and just accept him the way he is. If we create easier opportunities for Abdul to speak around the topics that interest him he might open up.
  • Sometimes young people from such backgrounds are also not used to leading conversations when around adults. They maybe used to conversations with adults only where they would just respond to questions or reply when told what to do. So its also possible that talking to an adult in this manner is a new experience for him.
  • There was a discussion among mentors present regarding Abdul’s interest in automotive engineering, , if this was a realistic goal to encourage, considering the difficulty in terms of academic requirements and financial resources needed. So should other options be discussed with Abdul instead?
  • Sandeep agreed that more time was needed to be spent on conversations around a career path and how Abdul could start planning his way forward. During the course of this discussion perhaps other aspects may come out such as challenges Abdul may face and as this happens, other options available could then be discussed.


Vijay mentors Ali, an 18-year-old who lives in Roopena Agrahara with his elder sisters and parents. Ali attends a pre-university course in science. They have been meeting for 8 months now. Read more from previous posts Here & Here

Vijay has now been meeting Ali more often and they have attempted visits or activities. Ali seems to respond more to these activities.

Vijay planned a few visits to a cyber/internet café nearby and explained how to use the internet to find information and also helped him create an email id. Ali gradually started to ask questions related to higher education and careers. Vijay tried answering his queries and also helped Ali understand how the internet can help him find answers.

On a few occasions Ali had questions concerning pursuing professional cricket or training for this in other states like Delhi. Vijay wasn’t sure how to clarify these queries.

On other days, Ali accompanied Vijay to a visit a science museum and a public park. Although Ali spoke very little, he seemed to respond to questions and expressed that he enjoyed these visits.

Ali seemed to prefer activities rather than sessions involving just conversation. Vijay noticed that it made it easier for Ali to open up.   

Reflections from the Group:
  • It’s probably a relief to Vijay to know that Ali is now responding and meeting Vijay more often as compared to previous episodes where he was difficult to reach. It takes a lot of patience to keep trying to connect one’s mentee and Vijay has kept trying for a long time.
  • Vijay is on the right track by attempting different activities to engage Ali and attempting conversations around careers and higher education.


Manoj has been mentoring Dhanush from Adugodi for 8 months now. Dhanush is an 18-year-old who is currently pursuing his pre-university course. Dhanush also helps his parents sell vegetables and fruits in the morning and also works part time at a community youth center. Read more from previous posts Here & Here.

Manoj has not been able to meet Dhanush as often as he would like to over the last month although they are in touch over the phone. His work commitment has led to him to consider discontinuing next month onwards. Manoj expressed that he was not sure about how to go about with this. 

Reflections from the Group: 
  • Most mentors find it difficult to approach one’s mentee when it concerns discontinuing a mentoring relationship. Sometimes we try to avoid this as it makes us uncomfortable or feel guilty. However, at some point mentor and mentee will part ways. It’s no one’s fault.
  • However it’s important to talk about this with one’s mentee 2-3 meetings prior to formally discontinuing. Young people do understand if we are honest about the reasons.
  • It would however not be taken very well if no explanation is offered and we just stop communicating.  It could leave doubts in the mentee’s mind as to why his/her mentor is no longer coming to meet him/her. Did I do something wrong? Or maybe my mentor does not like me..etc.
  • It is important to explain that Manoj would continue to remain a friend and be available on telephone should Dhanush have something he really needs to talk about.
  • Closure in the mentoring program, is also an experience that allows mentees to learn about transitions in relationships one may face during adulthood. So a proper closure is a learning for the youth.
                      Compiled by Jeeno P. Jacob, Program Anchor — Dream Mentoring Program| 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.

August 27, 2011


1) ‘Helping Children Survive Divorce: The Myth of the Tough Boyby Joseph Nowinski, discusses disruption of the attachment process for children and young people from families where parents separate. 

“...Separation and divorce hold the potential to undermine or disrupt attachments that are either being formed or have been formed. If that is allowed to happen, the result can be long-term insecurity and a fear of exploring the world. On the other hand, if divorcing parents understand the process of attachment and act in ways to preserve a child's existing attachments while promoting new ones, there is no reason why that child need be irrevocably harmed by divorce.

If their initial attachments are successful, children will be able to form additional attachments to significant others later on, with peers as well as with other influential adults in their lives, such as babysitters and day-care workers and, even later, teachers and coaches. Many psychologists believe that healthy attachments in childhood set the stage for satisfying, committed adult relationships.
Children also become attached to things, such as stuffed animals and blankets. They use these things as supplemental attachment objects; they represent additional sources of comfort and companionship, particularly when human attachment figures are not readily available...”

2)” Falling Through the Cracks: Coming Soon to a Teenager Near You” by Mark Goulston, discusses anxiety of young people as they enter early adulthood and their struggle with independence.
“...Traversing the psychological terrain between teenage dependence and young adult independence is fraught with anxiety, confusion and fear.  Doing it successfully means letting go of your dependence upon your parents to becoming independent.  The more you need your parents, the less independent and more ashamed you feel.  Such shame begets irritability and that can cause you to snap at them if they say something and snap at them if they say nothing.  That can be very scary to you and chilling to your parents.  Such a "no win" relationship with your parents requires an empathic understanding that goal oriented, project managing type parents find particularly difficult to muster.

....Frequently associated with this is a deeply painful and increasingly dark despair...

.......So what is the cure? What hopeless, meaningless, worthless, pointless and useless have in common is “less” as in without hope, help, meaning, worth, a point to go on.  The key to helping these teens is to give them a “with” experience....”

3) "Adolescence and shyness' by Carl E. Pickhardt, discusses challenges adolescents face while battling shyness , peer pressure and  the need to try to fit in.

“..There are all kinds of new situational discomforts. For example, during early adolescence, effects of puberty create a vulnerability to being teased about physical appearance that can create reluctance to interact with peers. Or, simply comparing themselves unfavorably to others, young people who "hate" how they look can keep to themselves to avoid being looked at by others. Or, ill at ease with her or his bodily changes, a sixth grade girl or boy may truly dread publicly dressing out for physical education at school. Shyness often arises from painful self-consciousness. 

In addition, many adolescents tend to be shyer around adults than they were as children because grownups have now become the operating standard for acting more mature. Now it's easy to shy away from adults because one feels diminished and inhibited in their company......”

4) “When adolescents want to quit by Carl E. Pickhardt talks about the complexity of quitting and how adolescents need to learn to find a balance.

“..Quitting is far more complex than it first appears. In the heat of momentary impatience or unhappiness, it can seem like a good idea. However, it often risks unanticipated costs.
Quitting can provide relief from duress, but it can also cause regret over what was left behind. Quitting can create new freedom, but it can also sacrifice past investment. Quitting can stop what is unworkable, but it can also start a pattern of giving up when work gets hard......
..... There are important times when it takes determination or even courage to quit. In these situations, adolescents who can't quit, or have been taught never to quit, can be at a serious disadvantage. To stick with a bad decision because on principle you refuse to quit is rarely a good idea. Sometimes pride makes it hard to quit because that means admitting one has made a mistake. You want your teenager to have sense enough to quit when keeping at it becomes truly pointless, harmful, or keeps the young person from productively moving on..”

August 1, 2011

RP-9: Mentoring Stories (from the Reflective Practice Session of June 26)

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.


Murali mentors Varun, a 16-year-old from Roopena Agrahara. His father is a low-wage construction worker while his mother works at a garment factory. Varun, who lives with his parents, has two siblings: his elder sister is married; his younger brother is in middle school.

Varun and Murali have been meeting for four months. They started meeting when Varun was in Std. X and preparing for his exams.

During their initial meetings Murali and Varun talked about preparation for exams and school. It was during one of these conversations that Varun revealed that his father would come home drunk and cause a disturbance, which made it difficult to study in the evenings. Varun’s high school teachers also mentioned there was trouble at home for a while now as his father was an alcoholic.

Gradually they started meeting almost every week near his high school. Murali found Varun very cheerful and open and always polite. Varun seemed to be responding well and always turning up for scheduled meetings.

For a month during the summer break Varun helped his father with his masonry work to support the family and pay his junior college fees.

Varun just about managed to clear his Std. X exams, after which he joined a government pre-university college in Agara. He initially applied for a commerce course there but his low marks made him ineligible. He was thinking about studying for a B.Com. degree after his PUC so that he could get a job later. Also most of his friends were thinking along the same lines. The college offered him the option of enrolling in an Arts/Humanities course instead. His friends urged him to change to commerce. So he discussed this with Murali.

Murali tried to validate Varun’s disappointment and confusion, and his desire to go along with his friends. He then explained that there are also other options beyond commerce and science and there are job/career opportunities available to art/humanities graduates as well. Perhaps, considering his final exam marks, it would be difficult to manage subjects in commerce or science. Murali asked him to think about this again. A week later Murali brought some textbooks for Varun as he figured Varun may have trouble with the subjects.

A few days later Varun called to tell Murali that he was still unsure about his options for PUC as his friends kept urging him to choose commerce. Murali sensed that Varun probably felt awkward since he had got him those textbooks or perhaps he felt that if he changed his decision it would offend Murali. Murali assured him that he would not feel bad and Varun could change his decision. He advised him to think about what would be best for him. He also offered to accompany him to talk to the principal if he still wished to change streams. But later Varun came back and said he would manage with arts/humanities and did not intend to change.

Recently his sister had a baby and she moved in with them for a while. He said that his father seemed to have reduced his drinking after some of his relatives talked to him about it. Things seemed to be better at home now and his mother had stopped going to work at the garment factory.

During one of his phone conversations with Varun, his mother invited Murali home. He agreed.

Murali later also invited Varun home.

Varun always asked about Murali’s family, his son and wife and his work.

At one of their recent meetings when they visited a coffee shop Varun was very hesitant to order anything, so Murali had to encourage him.

Varun was thinking of joining some computer classes at Dream A Dream at some point but is not sure because of the travel costs involved. Varun told Murali that he recently found a part-time job he could do after his classes at a small printing shop. He would start next month.

Reflections from the Group:

  • Murali has been available to Varun to talk about his problems and offer validation on several occasions. Talking about his father’s drinking habit and how that disturbed him prior to his final exams were crucial conversations and would have helped Varun gradually come to terms with it.
  • Varun’s initial disappointment at not being eligible for a commerce stream as he scored low marks in his Std. X exams, the subsequent confusion regarding his alternative options for a PUC course, and the pressure from his peers/friends to opt for commerce, would have troubled him a lot. Murali tried to talk him through it and constantly encouraged Varun to decide whatever he felt was best for himself. Although Murali discussed alternative options, he also offered to support him by way of accompanying him to talk to the junior college if he still felt compelled to study commerce. He explained the possible reasons for the college not permitting Varun to take up the commerce course and how it could be a little difficult considering his low scores. Despite Varun changing his mind a few times, Murali remained patient and assured Varun that he was available for guidance or help regardless of Varun’s decision. This was a great way to help Varun.
  • Varun seemed to be more and more comfortable talking about his family and also talked about Murali’s family. There seems to be a good rapport building between them. He also seemed to have explained to his family who Murali was and hence the invitation home.
  • Although sometimes we feel compelled to support our mentee by buying things for them, it’s recommended that we hold ourselves back and try to see if there are ways one’s mentee can empower himself/herself or if there are third party sources/sponsors he or she can be directed to.
  •  Visits to the mentee’s home with the consent of, and in the presence of, a family member are okay. This helps break the ice with the family and allay their apprehensions about the mentor. However, programme guidelines advise against mentors having their mentees over at the mentor’s home or other private residences, etc., for child safety reasons and to avoid repeat visits. This is just a standard protocol that needs to be kept in mind; it’s not a reflection on any individual mentor.



Vijay mentors Ali from Roopena Agrahara. Vijay had been having trouble meeting Ali as he had not been turning up and was not reachable on the phone. He had reached a stage where he was unsure how to continue and thereafter he made efforts to re-connect read more in an earlier report.

A few weeks later, Vijay managed to obtain a new contact number for Ali from the programme staff and his school friends. He learnt that Ali’s mobile phone had been stolen and hence it had not been reachable. Vijay was relieved that things were back on track; now he could think again about continuing the meetings.

Ali had cleared his Std. X exams and he planned to join a junior college nearby opting for a science course. He had recently taken up part-time work in the afternoons: he would collect old waste and used threads or cloth and take the items home where his sister would clean them. He would then sell them to a nearby store.


When Vijay talked to Ali about his choice of science as a course for pre-university college, it seemed as though Ali hadn’t thought it through. He was not sure about career options or future college courses or work. He said he took up the science course as someone had told him it would allow him to become a software engineer. Vijay was a little concerned because he knew Ali had trouble with science and maths. Ali then asked questions about careers or courses that did not involve maths. He also wanted to know if there were any easy options for a career and if there were diploma courses he could take up instead of joining PUC. So it seemed to Vijay that he needed some guidance on this front and also access to more information. But Vijay was not sure where to start.

Vijay was concerned that his absence could have been a reason for Ali not having access to timely guidance; he worried that he had not contributed enough owing to the gap in their meetings. He felt he had not probably done as much as other mentors.

Reflections from the Group:

  • It’s encouraging that Vijay has re-connected with his mentee after a gap and resumed meetings. It is understandable that he would feel a little bad when he hears about other mentors and mentees meeting more often and doing more. However, the gap in the meetings here was a result of an external factor that could not be helped. The good thing is that Vijay is making an effort to re-connect. Let’s try not to compare mentor-mentee relationships in terms of achievements. Each relationship is unique and has its own set of positives and challenges.  Sometimes we have to work with what we can.
  • Vijay was on the right track when he identified the need for some guidance on career choices and began helping Ali identify his interests and challenges in academics. It will be extremely helpful if conversations continue on this front.
  • Sometimes young people make mistakes. We can only guide them and offer information. Even if Vijay feels a science course would be too difficult or the wrong fit for Ali, we have to let youngsters take their own decisions. It’s difficult for us to take decisions on their behalf. What we can do is to keep making the offer to be there, should they need advice or help with academics or coping with those challenges.

  • 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.

    July 31, 2011

    RP-8: Mentoring Stories (from the Reflective Practice Session of June 19)

    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.


    Prachi mentors Shalini from Adugodi (read more in an earlier post).

    Shalini has completed her Std. VII exams and is moving on to Std. VIII. Recently Prachi and Shalini went to get ice-cream together.

    During the last few times they met, Prachi observed that Shalini spent a lot of time with older boys at the centre and they got quite physical, pushing each other and playing around. This is a worry for Prachi who thinks this may not be safe or appropriate. She feels this is happening because Shalini is attracted to boys and she is concerned that Shalini could be taken advantage of. So Prachi felt she should discuss this with Shalini. First she talked it over with staff members at the centre, who said that it was possible that Shalini was looking for affection not received from her father. It seems the father isn’t around a lot.

    At one of their meetings Shalini’s mother happened to be visiting the community centre. She spotted Prachi and Shalini and came over to speak with them. Shalini’s mother started talking about her, telling Prachi that she was not doing very good at school and needed help. She went on for a while about Shalini not being good at studies or not working hard or not showing interest and suggested Prachi should talk to her about this. She also wanted Prachi to help Shalini with her studies.

    Shalini eventually began crying as her mother went on in this fashion. After her mother left, Prachi had to console Shalini till she regained her composure. Thereafter, Shalini said she would bring her books to their meetings.

    Shalini also asked Prachi if they could go out together but the centre has now imposed restrictions on the mentees going out with their mentors, and Prachi had to explain this to Shalini.

    Prachi has also noticed that Shalini rarely talked about her family. She recently came to know from a staff member at the centre that Shalini has a younger brother. So Prachi feels maybe Shalini doesn’t look at her as someone in whom she can confide. Prachi feels Shalini looks at her more as a teacher and she is not sure that Shalini understands the role of a mentor.

    Prachi also revealed that she would need to discontinue mentoring Shalini the following month onwards as she is going abroad for higher studies.

    Reflections from the Group:
    • It’s understandable that mentors would feel it a little odd when their mentees have different expectations or none at all. Sometimes young adults or children take time to understand their roles in the relationship. So they may need our help to understand and slowly start to pick up the nuances depending on what we offer as mentors or demonstrate at the mentoring  meetings. It takes time for this to evolve and become clear.
    • The incident where Shalini’s mother talked about her lack of interest in studies or not being good at academics may have been a bit awkward and difficult and unexpected. When Shalini started crying, Prachi did the right thing by trying to console and reassure her. It’s most likely that Shalini felt embarrassed and uncomfortable by her mother’s complaints to Prachi. Most young people like to maintain a good impression with a new friend and don’t like someone (especially parents) intruding into that space. So maybe she looks at Prachi a little differently than a teacher after all.
    • Some young people or children may not disclose everything about their family in the first few meetings. Some take longer to open up. But maybe Prachi could attempt to learn a little about Shalini’s family through casual conversations unless she senses Shalini is uncomfortable talking about it. Sometimes it may not come from the mentee directly unless asked.
    • It’s understandable that Prachi is worried about Shalini’s safety, that Shalini may be taken advantage of by the older boys. Most mentors would feel that way. It’s good that Prachi shared her observations. Maybe we could gather a little more information from Shalini herself before we take the next step. Maybe she isn’t just mature yet to understand and thinks it is okay. Maybe she is unaware of what’s appropriate or not safe. Or maybe she just likes the attention of boys as normal teenagers do at that age. Since we don’t know, let’s find out a little more. Perhaps we could ask the centre staff for their observations as well. For example: Ask her a little more about who her friends are at school, at the centre or near her home and how she normally spends time with them. If it seems they are predominantly boys, ask casually why she has fewer girlfriends than male friends. See where that conversation goes. Thereafter, if Prachi feels it’s needed, a brief conversation on what may be inappropriate in terms of physical contact with boys could be explained. This may not be an easy conversation, so let’s collect some information before doing this.
    • While her mother wanted Prachi to help Shalini with her studies it is not mandatory that further meetings be only about this. Depending on what Shalini needs, Prachi can take a call. Maybe Shalini just needs a little guidance once in a while and not complete tutoring. Since Prachi is likely to discontinue soon, maybe it’s better not to make a commitment on this issue. So a general conversation around her academics to get a sense of what she needs could help. It’s true that the aspect of discontinuing mentoring may be a little difficult to bring up. But it needs to be discussed and Shalini will eventually understand.


    Archana mentors Malini from Adugodi. She has been meeting Malini over the last four months (read more in an earlier post).

    Sometime back, Archana and Malini visited a nearby bookstore. Archana first browsed through the shelves along with Malini and showed her a few interesting books. After a while, Malini started taking a look at books in the Kannada section on her own. They spent about an hour there that day. Afterwards, Archana and Malini talked about the jobs people had at the store and Malini mentioned that a friend’s sister also worked there. She said it would be the kind of job she would like as well. Before they left, Archana told Malini that she would buy one “spoken English” book and keep it at the centre library and Malini could use it if she wanted. Malini seemed to like this idea.

    Malini, who now studies in Std. VIII, had to recently move to a different school after her Std. VII exams because her school only has classes up to Std. VII. Malini told Archana that her friends from the previous school are no longer talking to her although they have also moved to the same new school. She thinks it’s because she made some new friends at this school. She feels they didn’t want to make new friends unlike her and so now she sits with her new friends. She tried talking to her earlier group of friends but they were not responding. So she decided to move on to her new friends.

    Archana observed that Malini rarely talked about her family. Once she stopped midway while she was talking about her family and quickly changed the subject. She seemed a little uncomfortable talking further.

    She once talked about her interest in becoming a police officer but Archana was not sure if we should try to have a discussion about careers. Once when Archana offered to arrange a meeting with a police officer, Malini said no. So Archana got a little confused.

    Reflections from the Group:
    • The visit to the bookstore would have been a good learning experience for Malini. She seemed to have a good time browsing through the books there. The subsequent discussion about jobs and working in such a store was a great way to help Malini start thinking of her future career or part-time options.
    • It seems Malini is comfortable enough to share her disappointments and frustrations (such as the incident with her group of friends). It would have been a relief for her to share it with Archana.
    • Young people take their own time to be comfortable enough to talk about family, their background or past especially if it is a troubled one. Some also tend to paint a pretty picture when talking about themselves to an outsider or third person to make a good impression. It’s possible that there are unpleasant things about her family or her past that make her sad or upset. Or she fears it would look bad if she disclosed some parts of her life. And so she avoids the topic. If she is not comfortable talking about it then let’s not push too much. Maybe at a later stage she will talk about it, if not today. We just need to be patient.
    • Conversations about her ambition of becoming a police officer are certainly helpful and great source for clarity of thought in setting goals for herself in the future. Perhaps Malini found the idea of meeting a police officer a bit too intimidating. Maybe something less intimidating, like how or where does one find information about qualifying exams, what kind of work it could involve and positions, etc., could be started for now.


    Mallikarjun mentors 19-year-old Thomas. He has been meeting him for about four months now (read more in an earlier post).

    Thomas spent almost a month at his uncle’s house in Kerala. He told Mallikarjun that he liked the time he spent there. That he could explore a lot of places and liked playing on his uncle’s computer.

    Thomas and Mallikarjun had had a conversation in the past about his attempting the Std. X exams again. Thomas had dropped out a year back after failing to clear a couple of subjects. At that time, it seemed to Mallikarjun as though Thomas was keen to finish school.

    Thomas told Mallikarjun that he had recently visited his school to apply to sit for the supplementary exams. But when he learnt there were just two weeks to go before the exams began, he felt he could not do it and changed his mind.

    Now he’s thinking about writing the exams next year or mid-year. He was not sure about the schedule and he said he needed to find out details from the school. Mallikarjun offered to help Thomas if needed. Later Mallikarjun also talked to the member of the staff at the centre, who said he would try to arrange for a tutor.

    Thomas said he didn’t have much to do in the last few days as his friends were all busy with exams or other things. Now that school has started and football sessions at Dream A Dream have started, he gets to spend time with more friends.

    Thomas’s health has improved although he continues to take medications for asthma.

    Reflections from the Group:
    • Being able to share his challenges and his desire to finish school is a sign that Thomas looks up to Mallikarjun and was looking for some validation. Mallikarjun did just that for Thomas, by listening and offering encouragement and support. It must have not been easy for Thomas to tell someone he backed out of writing the exams this time as he was under-prepared or afraid. Being out of school for a year and going back to writing exams and studying alone at home is a difficult thing to achieve for many young people from Thomas’s background. But he seems to be trying. Any form of encouragement from Mallikarjun can definitely help him stay the course. But we need to let him decide if he wants to use our help although Mallikarjun made the offer to help. It seems as though the least pressure results in Thomas trying to avoid doing something difficult. And we don’t know for sure if things will work out or if he will stay the course, so Mallikarjun may need to be patient and let Thomas slowly find his way.
    • Meanwhile Mallikarjun could continue conversations just to check how things are going on this front from time to time without being critical of the pace of Thomas’s progress (however frustrating it may be for us). Instead let us appreciate and praise every small step forward.
    • It’s best to let Thomas decide when he wants to write the exams at the end of the year or mid-term although we feel mid-term would be better for him. Either way, we’ll only know if such a facility to write the exams mid-term is available, after Thomas visits his school to find out about this.
    • It must be a relief for Mallikarjun to know that Thomas is managing his asthma better now.
    • Thomas seems to be sharing more often about the little things that he likes and how he spends his time. The more he shares the better the relationship seems to be growing between him and Mallikarjun. It must feel good for Mallikarjun to listen to Thomas sharing more. Mallikarjun can continue similar conversations about how Thomas’s week was, simple conversations about football, friends, or how he spends his time.


    Manoj mentors Dhanush, an 18-year-old from Adugodi. They have been meeting over the last four months. (read more in an earlier post).

    Manoj and Dhanush met a couple of times in the last two months. They also speak on the telephone often.

    Sometime in the previous month, Dhanush had attended a summer camp along with a group of youths from the community centre. Since Dhanush is a senior and also a volunteer at the centre now, he was also involved in organising the event. Dhanush called up Manoj one day and talked about a problem he was facing. Some of the youngsters and children had apparently stopped talking to him after the camp. Dhanush was worried and said he didn’t know what to do. He was not sure what could have caused this. Manoj tried to learn more about the incident to understand what had happened, if the problem was with any specific group or the opposite gender, etc. But Dhanush did not disclose further details. So Manoj just tried to reassure him and explained to him that these things happen sometimes. That it’s best to wait for a while and give his friends some space instead of probing too much. And maybe things will get better with time. He explained that everyone takes time to get over their feelings and maybe Dhanush could try talking to them after a week. Manoj told him that he shouldn’t worry too much.

    After a few weeks, Dhanush came back and reported that things were better now and the friends who didn’t talk to him before had now started talking to him again. Dhanush was feeling much better now.

    At another meeting, Manoj learnt that Dhanush had started some part–time work during the summer holidays with another centre nearby. When Manoj inquired about the work, Dhanush told him that he was unhappy and found it difficult to work with the youngsters there. He said they would not follow his instructions and he had to keep repeating them since they did not understand them; also, he said, he found it difficult to manage the group.

    Manoj then explained that such ups and downs are normal in every job. Manoj shared his own difficulties in managing his staff.  He suggested that since it is just a short period, Dhanush could try for a while and if he still finds it difficult maybe Dhanush can talk to the person in charge and share his problem or maybe ask for a change in role.

    Later Manoj learnt that Dhanush eventually decided to talk to the supervisor and managed to get re-assigned to a different role back at the earlier community centre.

    Manoj felt he had come to the realisation that he was becoming a helpline or outlet for Dhanush now. He also felt he needed to help Dhanush with decision-making.

    Reflections from the Group:
    • Manoj is gradually becoming a source for validation and an outlet for Dhanush to vent and share his problems, even if they are just related to incidents around work or at the community centre. And this seems to be strengthening the relationship.
    • The incident about his friends not talking to him after the summer camp may have been frustrating and confusing. By listening to Dhanush’s concerns and reassuring him that these things happen and things will eventually get better, Manoj helped him manage his immediate frustration. Gradually things got better with his friends and Dhanush did feel better.
    • Manoj also helped Dhanush manage his frustrations at his part-time job and put him at ease by letting him know that everyone, including Manoj, faces similar challenges. His suggestions may have helped empower Dhanush to walk up to his supervisor and request a reassignment or change in role. In the end, Dhanush was able to resolve things for himself.
    • Manoj could continue helping Dhanush through conversations when it comes to decision-making. Perhaps Manoj can gradually try helping Dhanush start to believe in his own capabilities with regard to decision-making or problem-solving, by demonstrating a simple process of brainstorming and trial and error. This way Dhanush could slowly learn to list options or ideas he can think of, with fewer inputs from Manoj. Maybe Manoj can hold back some suggestions and see if he can draw responses from Dhanush and list them as “Dhanush’s ideas” and only towards the end add a few of Manoj’s own points.

    • 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.

    June 28, 2011

    RP-7: Mentoring Stories (from the Reflective Practice Session of May 29)

    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.


    Divakar mentors Chandan, a 15-year-old from NGR Layout, Roopena Agrahara, whose parents are low-wage workers. Chandan cleared his Std. X exams a few weeks ago. Divakar has been meeting his mentee for about three months now.

    In addition to their meetings, Chandan remains in touch over the cellphone, sending a text message almost every day.

    During the initial meetings Divakar focused on conversations around school and studies. Divakar and Chandan usually meet near the high school. At that time, Chandan mentioned that he was unsure of clearing his exams, and that he didn’t know how to go about preparing for them. He was also having trouble with Maths and Social Studies.

    So Divakar suggested ways to plan for the final exams by keeping notes of the chapters Chandan had finished studying and what he had to do during the week. He explained that this would help him keep track of how much had been completed and what remains to be done. Divakar also showed Chandan his own diary, which showed how he planned his own week, and he explained how it had helped him.

    At the following meeting, Divakar was surprised to see that Chandan had taken up his suggestion and had brought along his book with detailed to-do lists for the week. Chandan now seemed much more at ease and confident about his preparations for the exams.

    Chandan also brought along his old class test papers. Divakar noticed that his mentee was doing quite okay in his tests. So he tried to offer him some reassurance and let him know that the tests showed that he was doing okay and there was no need to worry.

    Divakar also discussed Chandan’s interest in painting and sketching, something he was quite good at. Chandan would bring his work to their meetings to show them to Divakar.

    Gradually Divakar noticed that Chandan started sharing even minor aspects of his life. When something bothered him, Chandan would send a message, “I have a problem.” Divakar would then call him back and they would talk about it. Most of the time, they were little things about his day. Once he called to say that his mother would not let him go out and that staying home was boring. Another time, he wanted to go somewhere but was not allowed to wear a particular pair of jeans that he liked because his mother thought he would get it dirty. He was unhappy about it.

    Chandan talked about his high school farewell, how everyone had dressed up, and everyone was crying that day. He then tried to explain to Divakar that it was probably because they wouldn’t be seeing each other anymore or as often as before.

    During his final exams, although they didn’t meet, Chandan would call to report how he did in each exam and they would then discuss the next one.

    Chandan wants to become a police officer. He had noticed the trouble caused by crooked policemen in his area and he thought he should become a better police officer and set things right. Divakar felt that Chandan was quite passionate about this ambition and almost always had a conversation about this at every meeting. So they started working on a long-term plan, listing the steps to get to his goal starting from completing his final exams. 

    At a recent meeting, Chandan talked about his difficulties over taking a decision on his pre-university course (PUC). His family was insisting that he take up a commerce combination. But he was unsure. He was certain he didn’t want to take up science but didn’t know what other options he had. And his parents were not really keen on discussing this. So he asked Divakar what he should do.

    Divakar advised him to go by his interest in the subjects offered and also think about which combination would help him get the kind of job he wants. They then discussed different combinations and subjects within the commerce stream. They figured that a commerce course would still allow Chandan to attempt the exams he would need to write to become a police officer. So Chandan decided to choose commerce. But he also managed to convince his parents to let him choose a commerce combination with computer science as an optional subject. Divakar later learnt that Chandan had started getting himself enrolled in a computer course to prepare for this.

    Divakar is happy that he and his mentee share a good rapport.  However, sometimes it was tedious replying to constant messages from his mentee almost every day since Chandan would insist on a reply. Once Divakar was at a work meeting and for the first time responded he was busy and Chandan seemed to somehow understand, much to Divakar’s surprise. Interestingly, another time Chandan told Divakar that he should not call after 9 p.m. as his family would be asleep.

    Chandan had asked recently if Divakar could purchase a painting kit for him, so Divakar is not sure how to respond to this request.

    Divakar plans to help Chandan with more information regarding a career in the police force and may be arrange a visit to a police quarters/campus for Chandan.

    Reflections from the Group: 

    • It is encouraging to see Divakar and his mentee share a very good rapport from the beginning. Divakar was always available to listen to Chandan. The manner in which Chandan was able to share the little things in his life, his ambition, and his insecurities showed a certain trust that was developing.

    • Chandan’s need for sharing and validation seems evident from his need to have conversations with Divakar about simple things that troubled him, for example, his mother disagreeing with him or the incident about his classmates (and him) crying at their school farewell event, etc.

    • Divakar had offered helpful validation many times. While discussing Chandan’s difficulties with preparation for final exams, Divakar tried to reassure him about his own ability to plan and prepare for his final exams and encouraged him to try making notes or a plan. By disclosing Divakar’s own need to plan his week ahead, it probably helped put Chandan at ease. By acknowledging that he did well in the test papers Chandan would have felt a little more confident. It would have helped him overcome his feelings about being under-prepared or that he was not good enough to clear the exams.

    • Divakar’s conversations with his mentee about deciding a combination for PUC would have helped Chandan get some more clarity about his own thoughts. This also gave him an opportunity to share his thoughts about the decision, because he didn’t really have a receptive audience in his family. It probably would have felt empowering in some way to make or own some part of the decision, like choosing computer science as an optional subject.

    • There is a possibility Chandan is sometimes displaying an over-attachment or over-dependence because he appears to be constantly needing Divakar to respond over the phone. It’s probably difficult for mentors to set boundaries and explain a mentor’s need for space (for example, when he or she is at work). There’s this fear of losing your rapport with your mentee. However it’s good that Divakar had made an attempt and it seemed like his mentee understood when he said he was busy at work. Perhaps Divakar could continue to try this in small steps and gradually.

    • Regarding the request for the painting kit, it’s recommended Divakar explore whether there really was a need and why Chandan had approached him. Maybe it would be a good idea to ask him if he had tried asking his parents first and if not why not try that. If that approach failed or he does not talk to his parents and the request arises again, then Divakar would need to explain that the programme does not normally let mentors do this. If he feels compelled, Divakar would need to explain that an exception is being made only because he did well in his Std. X exams and he is a good artist. Otherwise as mentors we may end up encouraging or accommodating many other requests to purchase things in the future.


    Sandeep mentors Abdul, a 16-year-old from Roopena Agrahara, who recently cleared his Std. X exams and is planning to join a pre-university course in science. He lives with his parents and his father has a small shop near their home.

    Sandeep has been meeting his mentee for about three months now.  Sometimes his older son (who is a little older than Abdul) also accompanied him. Sandeep felt that although Abdul comes across as a shy boy, he has gradually started opening up. However, most conversations are still initiated by Sandeep. But Abdul stays in touch by sending him an SMS every two or three days.

    Sandeep learnt within the first few meetings that Abdul was a gifted artist and has participated in events at school. When asked if Abdul could show him some of his work, he was quite open and in the subsequent meetings brought some of his drawings to show Sandeep. When Sandeep asked him if he could sketch a picture of his younger son, Abdul agreed right away and came completely prepared for the next meeting with his materials and drew a very good picture of Sandeep’s younger son. He seemed to take pride in his work and appeared confident of his abilities on this front.

    During the first few meetings Abdul said that he had some difficulty with a few subjects in school, particularly Maths, while preparing for his exams. Sandeep and his older son then offered to help advise him on how to work on certain chapters and they continued this for a few meetings. Abdul eventually did well enough to clear his the exams.

    Abdul wants to become a mechanical or automotive engineer and so he has opted for a science combination for his pre-university course.

    Abdul sometimes helps his father in the shop. It seems as though his father expects Abdul to work with him in the near future. Abdul however seemed to suggest he didn’t much like that idea.

    Another time, Sandeep, along with his family, took Abdul for a visit to a mall nearby. Abdul came in his best clothes and everyone complimented him. They walked together around the mall and then spent some time at the gaming arcade. He seemed to have enjoyed this visit and interactions with Sandeep’s family. He did not appear nervous or uncomfortable as Sandeep had initially thought.

    Sandeep now plans to arrange a visit with Abdul to an automotive dealership/outlet. He also inquired if it would be okay or appropriate to purchase some books or a gift for Abdul or give him financial assistance.

    Reflections from the Group: 

    • Sandeep and his mentee were doing well. It was good to know there was a gradual progress in Abdul opening up despite his being a shy boy. The fact that Abdul keeps in touch over the phone every few days seems to suggest the friendship is growing.

    • One of the best approaches to build conversations with your mentee is around an interest area and Sandeep did exactly this by encouraging and talking about Abdul’s talent in art and building several activities/meetings around this interest area.

    • Sandeep helped Abdul express his insecurities regarding his final exams and identify ways to prepare better for his Maths exam. It helped him become a little more confident about his own preparation. Sandeep and his older son spending time with Abdul to work out Maths problems and keeping aside a few meetings to focus on this before his final exams definitely helped him prepare better.

    • Abdul’s sharing his dislike for working with his father at his shop was probably something he could not share with anyone home as it would be looked down upon. So in a way Sandeep became an outlet and offered some much-needed validation.
    • While it’s good to expose one’s mentee to new places or experiences (in this case a mall), sometimes it is necessary to set some ground rules so that we don’t build expectations of the mentee.  So clarifying that this may not be the same activity for all mentoring meetings (such as a visit to the mall), but maybe once in a while, would be good. It’s better to keep mentoring meetings as simple as possible.

    • Sometimes a new place is too much to take in at one go. So a discussion in advance with the mentee on what the activity will be can set expectations clearly and put the mentee and mentor at ease. In this case Abdul was comfortable and there was no negative outcome; nevertheless, it’s best to prepare your mentee.

    • Sometimes parents may not approve of such visits outside the neighbourhood and the mentee may need their consent. Sandeep did the right thing by making sure the parents were okay with the visit.

    • It’s a good idea to create learning opportunities for Abdul like the plan to visit an automotive dealership. Normally, youngsters say yes to any external visit, but it would be good to first check if he is interested in such an activity and if he understands the purpose of such an activity, how it could be useful.  If some ownership of the activity is passed on to Abdul he may learn how to do the same on his own later in the absence of Sandeep. So planning together where to go, identifying showrooms/offices closest to his neighbourhood, and discussing what questions to ask the staff or manager and how to approach them, etc., could empower him. Otherwise, his role gets limited to onlooker or observer.

    • It’s recommended that mentors avoid purchasing gifts or offering financial assistance. Certain purchases, if they are inexpensive and related to school or college, could be exceptions but only when there is a need (on a case-to-case basis if the programme permits). Otherwise, as mentors we may end up encouraging dependency. Sometimes we don’t have major problems to solve. Sometimes we are tempted to offer gifts or financial assistance in our effort to do something. But we need to hold ourselves back and ask ourselves: Are we doing this because it’s the young person’s need or is it our need to want to do something good or charitable, our need to solve the problem? We need to let the young person feel empowered, not obliged to us for our generosity. Otherwise we stop being mentors and instead become patrons or sponsors. These young people are not completely helpless; we need to let them know that and convince them that they can take care of themselves. It’s a difficult thing to do, but we must try. In cases where there is a serious need for financial assistance it’s recommended that mentors bring it up with the programme staff and direct the young person to a third party or other organisations.


    Vijay mentors Ali, an 18-year-old who lives in Roopena Agrahara with his elder sisters and parents. Vijay isn’t sure but he thinks there may be three sisters. Ali recently completed his Std. X exams.

    During their initial meetings Ali mentioned difficulties with certain subjects and with preparations for his final exams and Vijay offered to help. Ali also shared an interest in becoming a police officer, like one of his uncles, as it would give him some power or authority.

    At another meeting Ali talked about his father’s tendency to scold him and use abusive language with him. He seemed quite sad when he talked about this. According to the school staff, there was some history of trouble at home.

    However, after the initial meetings, Ali did not turn up for the next three or four scheduled meetings although there were telephone conversations in between. His usual response was that he had forgotten or that he had some work related to the marriage of one of his sisters. Thereafter, he has been unreachable on the phone (used by his father) for a month.

    So Vijay was not sure how to proceed here on.

    Reflections from the Group: 
    • It can be frustrating when one’s mentee repeatedly does not turn up for scheduled meetings. Sometimes youngsters have different priorities at this age; also, they may have chores at home or they may prefer spending time with friends or at work or on hobbies. In such cases, they do tend to forget commitments. Meeting one’s mentor may not be on top of that list of priorities. It takes time for that to develop and most often with more effort from the mentors than from the mentee.

    • It has probably caused Vijay some amount of disappointment and anxiety that even after making several attempts to connect with his mentee he is not reachable. Sometimes things happen that are beyond one’s control. Maybe the phone got lost or the number has changed. Maybe it’s difficult to access the phone as his father uses it (considering his account of his father’s behaviour towards him).

    • Perhaps the focus now should be on trying to re-connect and find out what happened. Maybe through contacts in the area or school staff or Ali’s batch mates. And see where things go from there.

    • 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.

    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.