Sunday, 30 September 2018

Encouragement


As mentors we are here to help our mentees to be the best that they can be. The first step in this process will be helping them to think about all of their positive attributes. This will help them to be confident and self assured when looking for a job. Of course, we don't want them to appear arrogant in interviews so we will also speak to them about the importance of humility.

I always advise my mentees to watch The Pursuit of Happyness staring Will Smith because it teaches people what can happen if they perservere. The film is based on the true life story of Chris Gardner who went from being homeless and working for free to owning a multi-million dollar company. The moral of the film is that we can achieve great things if we don't give up. This is the message that we need to give to our mentees.

If you haven't already done so, please watch The Pursuit of Happyness and make notes of the things you would say to a mentee who is struggling to find a job.


Friday, 31 August 2018

Empathy


Empathy is one of the most important attributes of a mentor because mentees will find it difficult to open up to us if we don't have an understanding of some of the issues they face. Empathy isn't about pitying them, it's letting them know that you can imagine what it would feel like to experience what they are going through. Of course, every situation is unique so we will never be able to fully understand a person's situation but we can have an idea. 

Prior to being paired with your mentee I would have spent a significant amount of time getting to know them so hopefully we would have a good understanding of some of the key areas of concern. I've had over 20 years experience of conflict resolution and helping people to stay safe, so if your mentee makes you aware of any safety issues please refer them to me straight away. During the induction the mentee will be made aware that I will be reviewing all conversations and communications so they shouldn't expect anything they say to stay between you and them. 

In reality a mentee is unlikely to come out and tell us that they are scared for fear of being labelled a wimp so we will therefore need to read between the lines. If they tell us that they were mugged, attacked, threatened or assaulted we can assume that they may be afraid that something similar could happen again. However, if they do not actually say that they are scared, we shouldn't verbalise our assumptions because we could be wrong. 

In our fictional case study, James has told his mentor about his fear so the mentor doesn't need to tiptoe around the topic. The mentor should start by empathising with James and letting him know that it's normal for people to be concerned after experiencing a threat to their life. Let him know that most people who commit street robberies are opportunists so it's highly unlikely that the robbery was personal. Ask him whether he has considered self-defence classes and ask about any plans he has to move to a safer neighborhood. Finish by letting him know that you will be referring the matter to me to look into.

Thinking Activity

After looking into the matter and discussing the situation with James, Aspire High writes a number of letters to the council on his behalf and encourages him to register  to be re-housed. We also advise him to start self-defence classes. James is less concerned about his safety but he is now consumed with money worries. Since coming out of prison James has been looking for a retail job but he's having a difficult time finding work so he's becoming discouraged. Please think about the things you would discuss with James?

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

First Meeting with the Mentee


Your safety is of the utmost importance so we will never pair you with a mentee who we suspect might be a danger to you. In the case at hand, James isn't in a gang, nor is he affiliated with any gangs. He simply lives in an impoverished community with a high crime rate. 

In the previous post we asked you to think about what you would say to James because it's important for you to have your own input. There will be general guidelines and key activities that Aspire High will organise, but you will have a degree of flexibility.

If I were paired with James I would start by commending him for joining the mentoring program and allowing us to help him. I would then go on to tell him a little bit about myself and why I decided to become a mentor. I would ask him if had any questions and I would try my best to answer them without revealing personal information about myself. I wouldn't ask questions about his experience in prison or his conviction because this may bring up bad memories. If he brings up the topics himself I would let the conversation flow but I would be careful not to pry. 

Thinking Activity
During the course of your initial meeting James tells you that he is fearful for his life because there have been some killings in his area. He has been mugged in the past and he is concerned something worse might happen in the future. Think about how you would respond and we will advise you on the best course of action in the next post.

Monday, 27 August 2018

Introduction to the Mentoring Programme


As mentors we are not there to take the place of our mentees parents. It's not our job to tell them off or make them feel bad about themselves. Instead, we are there to provide our mentees with support and guidance, helping them to achieve their goals. Confidentiality is an essential part of this mentoring programme so all mentors will be required to sign non disclosure agreements prohibiting them from revealing anything about their mentee to anyone other than Dola Akinola. Mrs Akinola is a qualified New York Attorney and she will be looking into any legal issues that arise.

Over the next few months we will be doing a case study of a fictional mentee who we will call James. He is an 18 year old British boy with Nigerian heritage who has recently spent 6 months in prison for carrying a weapon. He was caught by the police with a concealed knife which he had in his possession for protection. He had told the court that he was afraid for his life due to the recent killings in his area but the judge had decided to make an example of him to let people know that it was unacceptable to carry a weapon. Upon his release from prison he was assigned to a probation officer but he is wary of her because he thinks that she is an extension of the prison service. He still lives in the same council estate in South London.

Thinking Activity
Take some time to think about all of the things that you would like to say to James in your first meeting. In the next post you will receive some advice on what to discuss.

Anger


According to the NHS website, 'Anger is a normal, healthy emotion'. It's normal to get angry if someone treats you or someone that you love badly. Problems arise when we don't have the ability to control our anger and when we get angry over trivial things. People have anger issues for a variety of reasons. A lot of times it stems from things that happened in their childhood such as physical abuse, emotional abuse, abandonment and neglect. Many parents beat their children as a form of discipline not realising that the beatings may cause long term emotional issues for their child. Pit bull terrier dogs have been banned in the United Kingdom under the Dangerous Dogs Act after a number of violent incidents involving these dogs. Pit bulls are not inherently violent, most of the dogs involved in violent incidents were trained to be aggressive through beatings and abuse. Likewise, if a child is constantly beaten, there is a strong chance that the child will resort to violence when he or she is older. 

People who experience abuse as children won't all necessarily grow up to be violent adults, but there is a good possibility that they will have emotional issues if they do not deal with the trauma that they experienced as children. If a person is struggling with any anger issues they can refer themselves to a therapist through the NHS website. Alternatively, they can speak to their GP who can make the referral on their behalf. It's important for them to get help because if their condition goes untreated they may find themselves doing something that they later regret. 

Sunday, 26 August 2018

Positive Thinking

We need to control our thoughts because negative thoughts have the power to make us feel depressed and miserable. Once we realise that there isn't anything that we can do to change a situation we should actively try to stop thinking about the issue by filling our minds with thoughts of other things. In an interview that he did whilst in prison Tupac said that he listened to different types of music to calm his soul and that music helped him to get through his time in prison. I agree that music is a great way to clear the mind of negative thoughts because when we recite the words to an uplifting song we are pushing negative words out of ours minds and replacing them with positive words. Any time the negative thoughts try to creep back in we need to push them out by saying something positive. 

Our thoughts control our emotions so in order to keep our emotions in check we need to think about positive things. If you are feeling negative I encourage you to think about the great plans that you have for their life and how you are going to implement them. Think about your talents and abilities and how they can use them to help other people. If possible, I suggest that you surround yourself with positive people who encourage and motivate you. I recommend that you spend time reading and learning new things. All of these things help you to feel more optimistic and instead of looking at the glass as half empty you will see it as half full. 

Reaching Your Potential


Sometimes when you separate yourself from your friends to do your own thing you might receive a negative reaction. This is normally because they miss your presence. Don't take it too personally, they'll get over it. If they are true friends they will want to see you succeed in life. If they don't want to see you be great you don't need them in your life because they are only going to hold you back from reaching your potential.

Spirituality


In the previous post I mentioned that I spoke with some teenage boys who had a twisted Robin Hood mentality. As they were poor they believed that it was fair for them to rob from people who were richer than them. They felt that the people they were mugging had an abundance of money and wouldn't miss the money they were robbing. They were ignoring the emotional trauma that they were putting their victims through and were blind to the fact that what they were doing was wrong. People growing up in impoverished communities are often surrounded by influential individuals who convince them that criminal behaviour is acceptable. Take Nazi Germany for example, people were brainwashed into thinking that what Hitler was doing was right. In the same way, there are mini Hitlers in impoverished communities around the world who indoctrinate their followers into a life of crime. 

The people who say that they don't need God to be good normally do not come from poverty stricken environments. It's easy to say that you wouldn't steal if you've always had food to eat. People who follow the teachings of Karl Marx are often critical of religion because they believe that capitalist societies use religion to keep poor people in a state of poverty. They argue that religion is like a drug that makes poor people happy with their condition preventing them from doing anything to change their situation. Although I can see their points, I respectfully disagree. Most religions do not make people ignore their poverty, instead they help people to find joy in things other than material possessions.

People growing up in impoverished communities are less likely to be caught up by the negative aspects of their environment if they have something else to live for. Believing that they were created for a purpose provides them with a sense of direction. As Mentors, it's important to make an effort to be respectful of the religious background of the people we are mentoring even if we do not agree with all of the teachings of their religion. Our job is to guide the Mentees along the right path, steering them away from crime. We might use principles found in various religions but we will not be teaching a particular religion to the Mentees.


The Love of Money


When I was around 14 years old, my younger sister and I were heading with my friend and her father to her high-rise flat in Kilburn. When we got to the main entrance we saw a pool of blood on the floor. "I wonder what happened there?" Her father said in his strong Scottish accent. We started to get more concerned after seeing more blood in the lift. My heart was pounding as we got out of the lift and saw the trail of blood leading right to the door of my friend's apartment. As I had my younger sister with me, my friend and her father asked us to wait outside their door while they went inside to see what had happened. My friend came out a few minutes later, white as a ghost and told us that her mum had been attacked. Apparently some boys had mugged her mother brutally injuring her in the process. There was only a small amount of money in her bag and she hadn't resisted so nobody could understand why they had harmed her. 

Prior to that incident I had met boys in the area who had been arrested for mugging ladies. Concerned that they might do something like that again I tried to dissuade them from that kind of activity. "How would you feel if someone did something like that to your mother?" I had asked. They went on to tell me people who rob ladies normally target rich people so it's unlikely that anything like that would happen to their mothers. My friend's mother is from Columbia and is of mixed heritage so I suspect her attackers assumed that she had a lot of money because of her appearance. She is a sweet, harmless lady who is less than 5 feet tall so I am baffled as to why they injured her so badly. 

Timothy 6:10

Money in itself isn't evil but the 
love of money definitely is. The barbaric way in which my friend's mother was attacked makes me believe that her attackers were driven by an evil desire for wealth. Their lust for money hardened their hearts making them cold-blooded and merciless. When mentoring people from impoverished backgrounds we need to stop them from idolizing money by helping them to focus on spiritual values instead. We need to help them to understand that who they are inside is more important than what they possess.  There are numerous wealthy individuals who have committed suicide making it clear that money doesn't guarantee happiness.


Saturday, 25 August 2018

Love and Marriage



When I was a teenager one of my friends became pregnant for her boyfriend and when he found out he let her know that he didn't want her to keep the baby. Our mutual male friend told me that he believed the boyfriend didn't want her to have his baby because she isn't the type of girl boys dream about having as a wife. Of course this annoyed me. She's good enough to sleep with but not good enough to marry? As I grew older I heard of this happening with other couples. The men are obviously wrong in this situation but females need to be wise and stop sleeping with men who don't value them. I understand that many females enjoy sex as much as men but if an unplanned pregnancy occurs it's a lot harder for females to walk away. Children growing up in these situations are more likely to have a harder start in life so it's best to ensure that babies are born into an environment where they are wanted by both parents. 

Teaching Self-Esteem


Society does a great job of making people feel inadequate if they don't have money. Some people are immune to this snobbery while others are more impacted. In the song December 4th, Jay-Z raps about feeling ''worthless" when he was young because his clothes weren't matching. He explains that after he started selling cocaine his "self-esteem went through the roof" because he had the latest clothes, he was popular and "light-skinned girls" with "wavy" hair started to love him. I respect Jay-Z's honesty because these are the the same issue affecting black boys from impoverished communities in the UK. In addition to dealing with issues of poverty, black boys from poor areas contend with issues of self-hate as well. Self-hatred is caused by indirect racism and crime is one of it's effects. In order to stop these boys from committing crimes we need to first deal with the roots by teaching them to love themselves.


Keep Ya Head Up by 2Pac
Tupac Shakur was so much more than a rapper, he was an actor, a businessman, an activist and more. He was far from perfect but he had a good heart. Songs like, Brenda's Got a Baby, Keep Ya Head Up and Dear Mama highlight Tupac's caring and compassionate nature. His mother, Afeni Shakur was a member of the Black Panther party, an organisation dedicated to uplifting black people. She instilled a deep sense of pride into Tupac which gave him the confidence to go out into the world and blossom into a star. Tupac had a strong desire to help people but he became side-tracked from his original purpose. Nonetheless, he left a large body of work for us to learn from. Tupac's mistakes are a lesson of what not to do but we shouldn't discount all the positives because of the negatives. The fact is, young black boys from the inner city areas are more likely to be inspired by Tupac than Martin Luther King. Tupac was from the streets and his lyrics often speak to people who growing up in similar environments to the one that he came from. His song White Man'z World reprimand black people for killing each other while encouraging them to love themselves.