October 9, 2012

Reflective Practice Session - Oct 7, 2012

How do I connect with my mentee better?  My mentee does not

seem interested.

My mentee does not talk to me much. I cannot reach my mentee.


Sometimes mentors have trouble establishing a connection or rapport with their mentees as soon as we expect. And this can lead to disappointment or frustration.

A mentoring relationship is different from relationships we are used to. We normally do not pursue or stay in relationships where we don’t get much feedback or reciprocation of efforts in in return for our own efforts. So when one’s mentee does not open up, it makes a mentor’s role tough. We wonder what’s wrong.
Many young people take time to build a rapport with a new person.  A mentor is a new person in their life and someone who is different than adults he/she is used to interacting with.

How much a mentee opens up also depends on his/her personality or self-esteem. Many are shy and introverted. Many are intimidated by someone who’s different. Many are not used to having an open interaction or relationship with an adult in the manner we expect, since they are used a different form of interaction with adults at school or home. So it may seem strange, confusing or intimidating.

In some cases, mentees take time to understand the program and the concept of a mentor itself. Despite being briefed by the partner staff it’s not an easy concept for young people to process. Some sign up with just a vague idea of what to expect and still carry some apprehensions and doubts. Some change their minds after a few meetings. Some understand better only after a few meetings and discussions with a mentor.

Sometimes we may need to customize the format of mentoring meetings to suit the needs or personality of the mentee. Mentees who are shy may prefer less conversation and shorter durations. Some may be more comfortable with activities rather than a long conversation.

So this initial induction may demand a lot more time and patience from the mentor. Sometimes discussing these episodes at Reflective Practice Sessions can help.

If the mentee does not seem interested, and things don’t move forward after several attempts, we let go. There is then the option of working with a different mentee who seeks help within the program. Dream A Dream will support the mentor through this process.

As mentors, all we can really do, is offer an opportunity and demonstrate for some time our commitment and then allow the mentee to decide if he/she wants to make use of it.


Ashwin mentors Sumith, a 14 year old boy who lives in a slum near Bommanahalli in Bangalore. They have known each other for a month now. 

Sumith goes to a Kannada medium high school and is in his 9th Std. His father is coconut vendor and his mother works at a garments factory. They are both daily wage earners. He has an older sister who is in PUC. She is good at academics and Sumith and his parents are proud of her. He looks up to her. He looked much younger that his age and seemed physically smaller.

Ashwin noticed that Sumith was very cautious at meetings. Ashwin found it difficult to carry on a conversation with Sumith as he spoke very little and shared very little. When Ashwin asked what Sumith would like to do, he would say ‘anything you say’. He seemed impatient or uncomfortable at meetings and wanted to leave soon. It seemed like he wanted to go with his friends or didn’t want to be seen with Ashwin.

Ashwin found it hard to reach Sumith on the phone as the number he had, was that of his father. Most of the time his father would be out at work. So Ashwin would request the father to pass on the message to Sumith to call back. But Sumith would never call back.

One day Ashwin came 20 minutes late to a scheduled meeting. But Sumith wasn’t there. A few friends of Sumith mentioned that he had waited for some time and since Ashwin didn’t come he left. It has been hard to schedule meetings since.

Ashwin felt that maybe Sumith does not really want to meet him or talk to him. Maybe he was avoiding him. He wonders if there is a way to connect with Sumith.

Feedback/Validation/Suggestions from the Group

  • It’s frustrating and disappointing when one’s mentee does not open up or seem excited to see you. It happens to a lot of mentors. Some young people take more time that we expect, to build a rapport with a new person. Maybe Ashwin just needs more time with Sumith. Maybe it’s too early.
  • It may be a good idea to use validation levels 3, 4 & 5, to check if meeting in school and his friends/peers being around makes it uncomfortable for him. Would he like it if they met outside school instead?

  • Maybe he still does not know what to really expect from these meetings. So a conversation to explain Ashwin’s role and how he can help Sumith may work. Ashwin could also list a few options of activities and allow Sumith to pick what he wants to do in the next meeting. It may also be a good idea to ask if he really wants to continue.

  • Ashwin could find an alternative contact number with the help of Dream A Dream staff since it’s not easy getting through to Sumith on the current number.


Prabhanjan mentors Dinakar, a 14 year old boy who lives in a slum in Roopena Agrahara in Bangalore. They have known each other for a month now. 

Dinakar goes to a Kannada medium high school and is in his 9th Std. His father is driver and his mother works as a housemaid. They are both daily wage earners. He has an older sister and brother.

Prabhanjan noticed that Dinakar was very shy and avoided eye contact and looked down. He always chose a secluded spot in the school for the meetings.

Dinakar spoke very little. Prabhanjan mentioned that he would try to ask questions to keep the conversation going.  But he usually gets brief one word or one line answers.

He learned that Dinakar did not really know what he wanted to do after high school. He seemed to have a vague idea about a diploma course. But nothing further.

Interestingly Dinakar sought Prabhanjan’s help for a few subjects in school – English, Math, and Science. They went through some books. They also practiced some English but Dinakar soon gave up. He was finding it difficult.

Dinakar did not turn up at the next meeting. He said he had to go to temple. He then requested they meet after 2 weeks as he has extra classes.

When Prabhanjan inquired if they could meet outside the school, Dinakar said no. He said that his friends would see him and make fun of them. So he said he wanted to meet only in school and for 10 minutes or shorter durations.

Whenever Prabhanjan tries to reach his mentee on the phone he does not get through and he does not call back either.

He tried to find an interest area by inquiring what movies he likes or sports…etc but Dinakar generally says he is not interested in those topics. Prabhanjan has had no success in finding a common interest area.  

Prabhanjan shared that he feels his mentee seems like he wants to avoid him or does not like him and tends to be closed.  He wonders if there is any way to connect better with Dinakar. 

Feedback/Validation/Suggestions from the Group

  • It’s frustrating and disappointing when one’s mentee does not open up or seem excited to see you. It happens to a lot of mentors. Some young people take more time that we expect, to build a rapport with a new person. Some are shy and introverted by nature. Maybe Prabhanjan just needs more time to earn his trust.
  • It nice to see that Prabhanjan was patient and attempted different ways to connect.
  • Sometimes too many closed questions and ‘why’ leads to short brief responses. Maybe Prabhanjan could attempt simpler open ended questions and use validation levels 3,4,5.
  • Many young people who are shy would normally avoid situations where long conversation is involved. Especially with a new person. Sometimes it’s because others are watching.
  • It’s important that as mentors, we get used to the silence or long pauses. We could also try shorter meetings.  Over time, the length of the meetings could gradually be increased by a few minutes.  The alternative, maybe, ‘doing’ some activity, and not pushing for conversation. ‘Less talking, more doing’. This way he gets to feel comfortable in Prabhanjan’s presence. Some activities are listed in the blog. Prabhanjan could let his mentee pick an activity from 3-4 options. This way they both know what to expect in the next meeting.
  • For now it makes sense to meet at the school until he is comfortable.  Prabhanjan could use validation levels 3, 4 & 5, to let him know he understands Dinakar’s challenge with friends/peers making fun of him.
  • Prabhanjan could try and check if there is an alternative venue in Dinakar’s mind, somewhere they could meet without his friends seeing or making fun.
  • Prabhanjan could check with Dream A Dream to find alternative contact numbers if the current number is hard to get through.


Rupak mentors Mustaq, a 17 year old boy who lives in a slum in Bismillanagar in Bangalore. They have known each other for a month now. 

Mustaq goes to high school and is in his 10th Std. He lives with his parents, an older brother, sister and younger brother. His father is truck driver and truck mechanic. His teachers mention that he does get into trouble in school with teachers and other kids. He has a history of getting into fights.

Mustaq came late to his first meeting. He was quite anxious and wondered if he was the only one. He seemed unsure of what to expect from the meeting. But Rupak managed to explain his role. They discussed things Mustaq wanted to do after high school. He seemed to be a little confused. He mentioned working with the army, or software company or start his own shop. They decided to work further on his goals and plans in the next meeting.

Mustaq requested they meet outside school. Rupak agreed and said he would call and confirm.

They did not meet next week as Rupak could not get through to Mustaq to confirm the meeting. He tried again next week but still found it hard to reach him on the number given.  When he checked with the school he wasn’t there.

Eventually Rupak managed to reach Mustaq on his phone and they planned to meet that Saturday at 3.00pm. When Rupak tried to confirm the day of the meeting he could not reach him on his phone. He left a message at his school. But when he called up again at the end of school hours at 12.00pm, he had already left. So they didn’t meet.

Rupak does not know how to proceed.

Feedback/Validation/Suggestions from the Group:
  • Sometimes the coordination and scheduling is a lot harder than we initially expect it to be. It may be frustrating and confusing. It takes time for both mentors and mentees to settle into a pattern.
  • Maybe it’s a matter of simplifying schedules. Just plan a day and time a week in advance and just turn up rather than re-confirming on the phone and checking too many times.
  • Maybe he does not like waiting at the school. He seemed to not like the environment. He does have a history of having trouble at school. So maybe he left school that day as he had to wait 3 hours till the scheduled meeting. Maybe he would have turned up.
  •  Rupak could check with Dream A Dream to find alternative contact numbers if the current number is hard to get through.

*Names of youth have been changed to protect their identity

October 7, 2012

Reflective Practice Session - Sept 30, 2012


Ketan mentors Shafiq a 17 year old boy from a slum in Bommanahalli in Bangalore. Shafiq lives with his parents, younger brother and sister who are also in school. His father is a daily wage worker and auto-driver. He has an older brother who dropped out of school and is married and lives separate.

Ketan has been mentoring Shafiq for 6 months now. Ketan met Shafiq when he was pursing his 10h std. and getting ready for his final exams. His high school teachers revealed that he was a poor student and struggled with academics.

Ketan felt that they managed to break the ice quite early and there was a rapport building between them and they met often. He also managed to meet Shafiq’s family early on.

The initial conversations led to Shafiq sharing about his challenge with Math and English that he was attending extra classes to help him improve. He seemed to want to live up to his family’s expectation and do well in his studies. Shafiq shared that he was nervous and anxious about his exams.


Ketan could not meet Shafiq since his final exams in April. A month down the line, when Ketan spoke to Shafiq, he shared that he cleared his exams. Later, when they were to meet, Shafiq didn’t show up. When Ketan tried to reach Shafiq, he couldn’t but managed to speak to his father. His father revealed that Shafiq failed two subjects in his final exams. Ketan was surprised Shafiq lied to him. He wasn’t sure whether to confront him about it or not.


For a while Ketan could not reach Shafiq. For 2 months, Ketan did not contact Shafiq and Shafiq did not reach out to him either.


Then one day, Shafiq reached out to Ketan. He now had a cellphone and shared that he was doing a diploma course. Ketan did not probe further or inquire about his high school exams. But then Shafiq mentioned that his family had been going through some difficult times. It seemed like he was trying to explain being distant and out of contact. There were some feuds going on between his father and his elder brother over property. He also mentioned that his elder brother would beat him sometimes. Ketan and Shafiq agreed to meet soon.

Ketan was a bit confused about Shafiq not being honest and if what he says is true and if he will turn up. But he wished to continue mentoring Shafiq. He sought some advice on how to approach Shafiq now.


Feedback/Validation/Suggestions from the Group

  • The group felt that it’s understandable than Ketan was apprehensive about confronting Shafiq and the subsequent distance.
  • However, perhaps Ketan should give Shafiq a chance the benefit of doubt and still go ahead and meet him. Perhaps there are reasons why Shafiq kept things to himself or didn’t turn up at the last meeting. Maybe he didn’t know how to talk about failure and felt embarrassed. Maybe his family issues kept him occupied.

  • Ketan could try re-visiting the episode and attempt validation levels 3, 4 and 5 and discuss failures and set -backs in life.  And find out what Shafiq is doing now. If he closes up, we could stop and try later when he is ready to talk about it.

  • It’s important that Ketan tries to talk to Shafiq again to understand his family’s recent challenges and his elder brother’s behaviour towards him. To understand how Shafiq copes with it. If it was a one-time incident or if there is a pattern of violence at home. Depending on this we may need further discussion or think of an intervention.

  • If Ketan is apprehensive about how honest Shafiq is, a simple way to verify things would be during a casual visit home to meet his family without appearing like Ketan was ‘checking up’ on Shafiq. Or casual conversation with his father on the phone since the family is already familiar with Ketan.



Shalini mentors Rachna a 17 year old girl from a slum in Roopena Agrahara in Bangalore.  Rachna lives with her parents, younger brother and older sister. His father is a daily wage worker and truck-driver.

Shalini has been mentoring Rachna for 6 months now. Shalini met Rachna when she was pursing her 10h std. and getting ready for her final exams.

Rachna seemed very open to sharing her challenges at home. While Rachna wanted to study further after high school, her father was against it. Her mother was supportive and wanted her to study further. Her uncle and father would constantly suggest she get married after high school. This became a constant reason for fights between Rachna’s parents at home.

After her exams Rachna worked for some time as a garment factory worker.

Rachna’s mother suggested she move to a hostel and go to junior college. She even sought Shalini’s help looking for such options. Rachna’s eventually cleared her 10th final exams. Shalini offered to talk to her family if needed, but it never came up.

Quite often Shalini noticed that Rachna came late to meetings. Sometimes she would forget and need to be reminded. But on the other hand, she seemed quite eager to meet and talk to Shalini.

Later Shalini learned that Rachna’s father agreed to allow Rachna to continue pursing junior college. Rachna did not move out to a hostel. Rachna asked for some help with money for college fees and Shalini agreed an amount of Rs.500. She started attending junior college.

Thereafter Rachna did not turn up at a few scheduled meetings. She was also hard to reach on the phone as she would call from a different number and the number constantly changed every 2-3 weeks. Many at times it would be the number of a relative. The last 2 months, there has been no success contacting Rachna.

Shalini now feels that she may not be able to continue and wishes to discontinue the relationship. She is not sure if it’s possible to meet Rachna. She wonders if she is interested. She’s felt disconnected for few months.


Feedback/Validation/Suggestions from the Group

  • The group agreed that is tough to feel excited and continue mentoring when one’s mentee is hard to reach or meet. It is frustrating.

  • It’s okay if Shalini wants to end mentoring if things are not moving further. She has tried to be there for 6 months.

  • The group suggested that Shalini make a last attempt in locating Rachna’s home and paying a visit and Dream A Dream will support. This will offer an opportunity to communicate ending of the mentoring term and give Shalini and Rachna some closure.

  • Despite things not working off late, Shalini has tried her best to be there for her mentee through difficult times. Maybe she is doing better now. Maybe it’s a good thing that we are not needed. Moving on in life and being less dependent, maybe that’s a good outcome.



Preethi mentors Khouser an 18 year old girl from a slum in Adugodi in Bangalore.  Khouser lives with her mother, younger brother and older brother. She also has an older sister who lives with relatives. She was raised by a single mother who is a garment factory worker. Her brothers are daily wage workers mostly working as auto or car drivers. She is attending junior PU college.

Preethi has been mentoring Khouser for 6 months now. When Preethi met Khouser she was pursing getting ready for her 1st year PUC exams. So they spent the first few weeks discussing her preparations for exams and going over question papers.

Khouser started opening up to Preethi quite early. Besides things at college they would discuss her interest in karate. Khouser has been attending karate classes at her community center for a year. She also participated in tournaments and won prizes at national and district level competitions. But her brothers and relatives are against it; her mother however, is supportive.

A few years back she also used to attend football sessions at Dream A Dream but her family advised her to drop out as it got late when she got back and needed her to wear a uniform.

Her brothers and relatives have always suggested marriage and discontinuing education. But her mother supported her decision to continue junior college. Also since her older sister resisted marriage it in a way motivated her to resist as well.

One of the other challenges that came up was coping with the stress of academics in junior college. Khouser came from a Kannada medium high school. The transition to English medium has been very difficult. She was struggling. One of the things Preethi suggested was approaching the college professors to change 1-2 difficult subjects to easier ones and the other was exploring change of college. Eventually Khouser decided to try to change her subjects.

A few months back Khouser got a chance to compete in a national karate tournament. It was in a different state. Her brothers and relatives were against her competing. She also needed some money to participate and travel. Eventually her mother and aunt helped and she competed.

Preethi found Khouser always eager to meet and talk on the phone. From time to time she mentions the pressure from her uncle and relatives to get her married and conversations about ending education and moving out of Bangalore post her PU college.

Preethi plans to continue mentoring Khouser for another 6 months.

Khouser now has another opportunity to compete a national tournament in December but doesn’t know how to raise enough money to go. Preethi wonders what she can do. She thinks maybe approaching the college or her community center or talking to mother could help. But her real name and the names on her certificates are different,


Feedback/Validation/Suggestions from the Group

  • The group agreed that, Preethi suggesting different options rather than offer money directly to Khouser, was the right approach. Preethi being there through the tough times would have definitely given Khouser some confidence to keep trying and staying positive.
  • Some of the options the group felt Preethi could help Khouser with:-

o    Preethi could try to collect more details about her karate tournaments (if they are private run tournaments or affiliated to local government bodies). To explore if Khouser is eligible for government or other sports scholarships.

o    Help or prepare Khouser to approach the college principal or sports department for financial support.

o    Preethi could talk to other karate instructors or teachers in her network to learn more about such tournaments and opportunities available for Khouser.

o    Since there are 4 months till her tournament, Preethi could discuss part-time work options with Khouser and her mother. This may help her raise enough money on her own.

o    Preethi could also link Khouser to DreamConnect Center for support or guidance on part-time work.



Rakesh mentors Somanna, a 16 year old boy from a slum in Koramangala in Bangalore.  Somanna lives with his parents and older sister. His father is a daily wage worker and an auto-rickshaw driver. His mother sometimes works as a housemaid. Somanna is a school drop-out.

Rakesh has been mentoring Somanna for 6 months. They met when Somanna was in high school in his 10th std.

Early on, Somanna shared that he had his challenges with his upcoming high school final exams. He sought help and Rakesh spent time helping him with Science and Math. Rakesh noticed that Somanna had trouble processing information, remembering things and had poor reading skills.

Rakesh noticed that Somanna had two close friends who he spent a lot of time with. They seemed to do everything together. The three of them planned to join the same junior college (PUC) after high school.

After his final exams, he went to his native place in Tamil Nadu for a few days. When he returned his he learned he had failed for subjects in his final exams. He shared this with Rakesh and sought some help for his re-exams which were a month later. Rakesh found out that his two friends had also failed the final exams.

Somanna started working part-time at a retail shop. He seemed to like his work. Rakesh shared that although they spoke on the phone it was getting difficult to meet Somanna. He seemed to be busy with work. Somanna did not turn up for a few scheduled meetings. Rakesh would however follow up with his family or talk to Somanna on the phone.

During one of these conversations Rakesh advised Somanna try to focus on his re-exams and complete his high school. Somanna revealed that his father wanted him to work. Rakesh attempted to meet Somanna once at his workplace but Somanna was not too keen on him coming there. Somanna promised he would meet after his exams in August. But there has been no contact for 2 months.

Rakesh is now considering moving on and closing the mentoring relationship after 2 months. He does not know if he should try to re-connect or end the relationship. He feels that Somanna needs to finish school and pursue education if he wants to do well in life, but wonders why Somanna is not keen on listening to him or speaking to him.


Feedback/Validation/Suggestions from the Group


  • The group agreed that one would feel frustrated if the mentee is hard to reach and does not follow through on advice.

  • The group suggested that since Rakesh is available for another 2 months, that he could try and re-connect again and find out a little more about his current situation and if Somanna wished to continue. If he seems un-interested Rakesh is free to end the relationship.

  • Rakesh is right to feel that finishing high school and further education is important for Somanna and needs to be his priority. But maybe we need to try to understand things more from Somanna’s perspective. Sometimes when we constantly offer advice, it pushes young people away.

    • Maybe Somanna has serious trouble with academics and does not feel confident about his abilities and fears he will not get through his exam. Maybe he is avoiding the prospect of failure again.

    • Maybe there is no one at home who encourages him to pursue education. He did mention his father wanted him to work.

    • Maybe working gives him some sense of achievement or self-esteem that he cannot find with education. Maybe it offers his some respect in his family. Maybe it offers him an escape from life.

    • Maybe his family really needs him to work as they have financial difficulties and need support.

    • Maybe this is a temporary plan till he attempts his exams next year.

    • Maybe he is embarrassed about meeting Rakesh.

    • Maybe Somanna has trouble coping with these changes in his life and moving forward.

    • Maybe he feels left out after people he knows have moved on. There is no information about his friends.

  • The group suggested that Rakesh try to find out Somanna’s work timings and plan meetings at his home or near his home or near his workplace. Something more convenient for Somanna.

  • The group suggested that Rakesh hold back advice for now and just meet Somanna to understand his situation and offer validation levels 3, 4, 5 and some encouragement. To let him know that Rakesh understands his situation and will not judge him.

  • Perhaps Rakesh could attempt a different topic of discussion or activity that Somanna is interested in to engage him. Some ideas are listed in the blog.




Christine mentors Ameena who lives near a slum in Wilson Garden in Bangalore. Ameena lives with her parents and three younger sisters. Her father used to work at a cloth shop. Now it is unclear what his occupation is. For a while he was unemployed. Fatima is in high school in 10th Std.

Christine has been mentoring Ameena for 6 months now. Early on, Christine started meeting Ameena at her home. The family along with other Muslim families decided not to send their girls to the local community center they used to go to. There were concerns about girls interacting with boys at the community center.

Christine initially found it difficult to get time along with Ameena as her father or family members would always be around. They were not keen on Ameena going out. So Christine continued to have her conversations with Ameena at her home.  Most of the conversations were casual conversations and revolved around school. She had trouble with Hindi and English in school. Sometimes they would go over her books.

During many of these meetings, her father spent time talking to Christine and asked her questions. It seemed that the family was apprehensive of Christine’s background and her influence. The father seemed to dominate conversations and Ameena or his wife would not speak in his presence. Sometimes he intervened in conversations, Christine would be having with Ameena and spoke on her behalf.

Christine scheduled meetings over the phone through Ameena’s father. It was hard to get Ameena on the phone.

Christine realized that it was a very conservative patriarchal Muslim family. Christine prepared well for this and even changed her attire to fit in.

Interestingly, Ameena’s father seemed to tell Christine than he wanted his daughters to have an education and finish school. Christine wondered how the family managed if the father was unemployed. She felt the family was being supported by relatives and maybe they were conservative. Many Muslim families are under the scrutiny of the relatives and they had a strong say in what the family did.

The family was always polite to Christine and treated her as a guest and served refreshments. Christine noticed that Ameena’s mother spoke very little. Her father once mentioned that Ameena has a bad temper and tends to bully the younger sisters. Christine agreed and noticed the same.

During one of her conversations with Ameena, she revealed that she found it difficult to express herself freely at home.  She did not really elaborate further. But it seemed hard for Ameena or Christine to carry on conversation for long.

Christine once attempted to meet Ameena at her school. She thought this might offer some privacy away from her father to allow her to speak more freely. She brought a dictionary to help Ameena with English and Hindi. But she was very uncomfortable. Christine thought maybe it was because other friends and her sisters were around. She requested Christine meet her at home here on.

For 2 months they did not meet. Ameena was away visiting her grandmother and relatives. Christine wondered if Ameena or her family was avoiding her. Then for a while Christine was away for personal work.

When she tried to contact Ameena, her father requested to postpone the meeting as he was unwell.

Thereafter Christine met her again at home. They discussed how to go about getting documentation for identity proofs, age or address proofs and how it helps. She carried some documents of her own to show Ameena. She seemed interested.

Christine plans to meet her again in a few weeks after her school exams. She plans to continue mentoring Ameena for another 5 months unless Ameena or her parents feel otherwise.

Feedback/Validation/Suggestions from the Group

  • The group felt that Christine had tried her best given the difficult circumstances in which she had to meet her mentee. They appreciated her perseverance and patience with her mentee and family. Anyone would feel constricted in such an environment when a family member supervises meetings and if there was a lot of scrutiny.

  • The group felt that Christine could try more ‘doing’ activities listed in the blog to keep Ameena engaged if conversation becomes monotonous or restricted. Her idea of talking about identity proofs seem to work.

  • Since the father likes to oversee things, it makes sense to keep him in the loop about the nature of activity, so he feels he is in the picture. He seems to want this. Maybe he will start to offer some space if he knows in advance what the activity is. This will certainly be hard. Until he seems open maybe activities involving going out could be kept on hold.

  • Maybe he wants to project a certain positive image to an outsider and is afraid his daughter may say something about the family. Or maybe he wants to keep an eye because he is worried what the neighbours or relatives may say.

  • Maybe it’s a good idea to also have short casual conversations with the mother and build a relationship. Maybe it will offer more information about the father and how things are at home.

 ** Names of mentees have been changed to protect their identity