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.

RP-5: Mentoring Stories (from the Reflective Practice Session of April 17)

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


Manoj mentors Dhanush, an 18-year-old who is currently pursuing his pre-university course. Dhanush also helps his parents sell vegetables and fruits in the morning. He seems to have been coming to the community centre for the last five years and the centre seems to be his world – he spends most of his free time there.

For about two months now Manoj has been meeting Dhanush, who comes across as a confident and cheerful youngster.

Dhanush says he wants to become a police officer and he also seems to be preparing for a future career by trying to learn how to use the computer and by attending karate classes at the community centre. Manoj got a sense that Dhanush had a clear idea of what he wanted in life and was driven to achieve it.

A few weeks back Dhanush confided in Manoj about an incident that had disturbed him. Manoj had planned to meet Dhanush outside the centre for a change but Dhanush declined saying he was needed there and that there had been an incident. Dhanush appeared to be frustrated and upset. When Manoj asked him what was wrong, Dhanush said that a few boys at the centre had damaged some art work owned by his friends. It seemed Dhanush felt responsible for what had happened at the centre as he was a senior youth volunteer there. Manoj was a bit surprised and felt this was a mature and responsible behaviour for an 18-year-old.

Another time, Danush talked to Manoj about his fear of certain boys near his home who tended to get into fights. It seemed to bother Dhanush. However, he did not elaborate.

Manoj felt a good relationship was developing between him and Dhanush and the fact that they could converse in Tamil and Kannada made it easier. Manoj also explained to the mentors’ group that he had lowered his own expectations and consciously tried not to look for problems; instead he just focused on listening.

Reflections from the Group:

  • Manoj was on the right track and should continue conversations and meetings to allow Dhanush to confide in him further about things that trouble him, such as the unruly boys in his neighbourhood or the incidents at the community centre with other young people. These conversations and sharing of confidences are helping Dhanush.
  • Since Dhanush has shared his ambition of becoming a police officer, perhaps further conversations around this subject could give him more clarity about the way forward or demonstrate that Manoj is available should he need advice or help in obtaining information.


Prachi mentors Shalini, a 15-year-old from Adugodi who studies in Std. IX. Her father is a plumber while her mother works as a tailor. Prachi has been meeting her mentee for about two months now.

During the initial meetings, a few friends of Shalini always accompanied her. They played some games or read stories together.  Prachi found it difficult to get some time alone with her as there were always other children around.

When Prachi invited her out for a visit to a park close by, Shalini was not willing to go and wanted to check first with her mother. So Prachi offered to talk to her mother, which she did. However, Shalini still seemed apprehensive about going out. So Prachi continued to meet Shalini thereafter at the community centre.

At one of the following meetings, Shalini mentioned she was unable to sleep at night but did not elaborate. In another conversation, Shalini mentioned she wanted to study to become a doctor.

Reflections from the Group:

  • It’s hard when we don’t get time alone with our mentees. At some centres other children do tend to hang around allowing little privacy. But Prachi can continue trying and also attempt to explain to Shalini that they need some time to speak alone. Perhaps talking to the centre staff can help Prachi find a suitable space at the centre that would permits some privacy.

  •  It was good that Prachi tried to understand Shalini’s apprehensions by talking to her and even meeting her mother. It’s normal for children to be afraid of new things and places and even people. And since Prachi and Shalini had met only recently maybe it’s too early for such an activity. Even if these apprehensions persist we should be patient and in time she will feel safer.

  • Since Shalini did not elaborate on her sleep issues, maybe Prachi could pursue another conversation around this if it comes up again, to see if there is something that’s troubling her.


Mallikarjun mentors Thomas, a 19-year-old school drop-out. Thomas could not complete his Std. X and had worked part-time for a while. His father is a low wage painter and his mother works with a courier service firm.

Mallikarjun happened to get to speak to Thomas’s mother on the telephone one day while trying to reach Thomas. He learned from the conversation that there were some financial difficulties at home that it could come in the way of Thomas’s education; it could also mean his having to take up a job. However, Thomas hadn’t really brought this up or discussed this with Mallikarjun although he mentioned his interest in finishing school. Mallikarjun told the group that he was unsure what he could do about this.

In another conversation, Thomas revealed to Mallikarjun that he had had an asthma problem for some time and he took medications every day for this. 

Mallikarjun noticed quite a lot of boys, including his mentee, speaking rudely to one another and sometimes using obscene language. However, Thomas never spoke this way with Mallikarjun. He was always polite. So Mallikarjun was not sure if he should talk to Thomas about this.

Reflections from the Group:

  • Like many other youngsters, there could be possible financial challenges in Thomas’s life that he is yet to talk about openly. Perhaps he will bring them up in related conversations such as his future plans – to work or to go back to school. Such a conversation might provide some clarity of thought for Thomas and demonstrate how Mallikarjun can be helpful, should he need advice.

  • Thomas’s asthma problem is indeed worrisome. One needs time to accept it so as not to feel awkward or overtly conscious or sympathetic about it. It’s good to have this information now since it gives some insight into his physical well-being. For now, it is suggested Mallikarjun follow up from time-to-time in routine conversations to see if other challenges related to this health condition come up and offer validation where needed.

  • Sometimes children or youngsters from certain low-income communities we work with tend to be aggressive and speak to each other rudely and use obscene language. It’s a result of what they pick up from their environment and social circles. Sometimes it’s also a need for survival, a need to be accepted in the group. This is also seen in mainstream youth. Social norms and what’s considered acceptable language differ from what we would think of as normal. So maybe we should avoid intervening directly in the conversations between the children or youngsters at the centre unless it gets really out of hand, for instance, if there is a fight. Otherwise it could restrict Thomas’s autonomy. Perhaps Mallikarjun can make inquiries to see if everything is okay and try to understand in case there are any more heated conversations with other youngsters – if he was angry, frustrated, or hurt. It’s also okay to share an honest response if Mallikarjun is surprised by the language. It’s possible that Thomas might then clarify and explain so as not to offend Mallikarjun. The fact that Thomas does not speak to Mallikarjun in the same manner he does with other youngsters indicates he already has a sense of what may be appropriate and what’s not and is able to tell the difference.

Geetha mentors Anitha, a 15-year-old who lives in Adugodi studies in Std. IX. Her parents are low wage workers.

During one of their conversations Anitha mentioned that her mother scolds her a lot for not doing her household chores properly. She claimed that her mother was never happy with the way she washed clothes and this was upsetting her.

Another time Anitha mentioned her difficulty with maths in school. So Geetha offered to help her with some guidance and they worked on this during a few meetings.

Lately Geetha has had some trouble meeting Anitha as she tends to have other things she has to do. So it has been hard scheduling meetings with Anitha. Despite several attempts Geetha has been unable to meet her mentee for a month.

Reflections from the Group: 

  • It’s true that it can be frustrating sometimes when one’s mentee does not turn up for scheduled meetings or when it’s difficult to communicate as often as one expects. Sometimes the children or youngsters have other priorities within their group of friends or other things come up at home. It may not be intentional. So we may have to keep trying to meet them and let them know we are still available. Sometimes we have to accept that they have other things to do or maybe they are not used to committing to anything like this in the past.

  • The fact that Anitha asked for help with school work in maths and also talked about her disappointment with her mother shows there was a need for some validation and sharing. And Geetha was available for this need.


Archana mentors a 15-year-old girl from Adugodi, Malini, who is in Std. VII.  Her parents are low-wage workers. Archana and Malini have been meeting for three months now.

Malini was quite active in high school and doing well. She insisted Archana attend a school event she was hosting. So Archana agreed. Archana felt that she shared a good rapport with her mentee.

At a subsequent meeting it seemed Malini was quite upset or disturbed. She revealed that she had lost her uncle’s phone and didn’t know what to do.

Archana tried to talk to her a little more and offer some validation.

A few weeks later, Malini said that she had managed to talk to her uncle and planned to save some money to buy a phone for him eventually.

At a meeting close to her birthday, Malini said that she planned to have a birthday celebration and invited Archana. But Archana could not go. Later Malini revealed to Archana that she went out with some friends for her birthday and told her mother that she was out with Archana instead. This was surprising for Archana and so she tried to explain that it may not have been the right thing to do. When Malini was asked why she had done this, she didn’t really say much.

Sometimes Archana felt it was difficult communicating with Malini’s mother on the phone when she needed to reach Malini as she speaks in Kannada unlike Malini and Archana who speak to each other in Tamil.

Reflections from the Group: 

  • It must have been surprising and awkward to have learnt that her mentee told her mother she was out with Archana and not with her friends. However, it was good that Archana shared her honest opinion of the incident with her mentee without being judgemental. Sometimes teenagers do tend to find excuses to go out. Since Malini knew her mother approved of Archana, she probably thought it was a good idea. In a way, it’s probably a good thing that she came forward and confided in Archana about it instead of hiding it.
  • It was a good thing that Archana did not directly offer to lend money or a solution when Malini told her about the lost mobile phone, but instead discussed it further, offered validation, and allowed her to find her own solution.


Visha mentors 15-year-old Ramya who lives in Adugodi and studies in Std. X. Her parents are low-wage workers.

Visha’s mentee has not been turning up for scheduled meetings. There is also a challenge sometimes in scheduling meetings as the phone is usually with one of her parents and it’s difficult to communicate because of the language barrier. Sometimes Ramya says she has curfews or restrictions at home.

Reflections from the Group: 

  • It is frustrating sometimes when one’s mentee does not turn up for scheduled meetings. Sometimes the children or youngsters have other priorities within their group of friends or other things come up at home. It may not be intentional. So we may have to keep trying to meet them and let them know we are still available. Perhaps we can take the help of the centre staff in scheduling meetings if it is difficult to reach the mentee on the phone.

  • 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 27, 2011

Meet the Class of 2011


Earlier this year, in January-February, 36 volunteers underwent training to become mentors for the first time. The training sessions were held at the Rani Sarala Devi School in Jayanagar, Bangalore. Once again, Dr. Dave Pearson and Dr. Fiona Kennedy visited India to facilitate these training sessions for Dream A Dream.


Then came the mentor-mentee matching seesions, with 33 volunteers gathering at three partner centres across Adugodi, J.P. Nagar, and Roopena Agrahara. The centres include Makkala Jagriti Adugodi Community Centre, Vishwas (an orphanage that’s part of the Helpline Charitable Trust), and the Round Table School.