Last year I signed up with an organisation which recruits and trains mentors to support young people from multicultural backgrounds, some of whom came to Australia as unaccompanied minors.
I made a commitment to be linked with a young man from Afghanistan for a year, with the plan of investing some positive influence and encouragement into his life. What I didn’t realise at the time was how much I would receive from the arrangement.
Here are some of the priceless benefits that have come my way through my involvement in the mentoring program.
1. A strong, lasting friendship. We seemed to bond and find plenty of common ground from our initial introduction, and have enjoyed each other’s company ever since. We’ve had a lot of fun and laughs, and done some mad things like jumping of a 6 meter cliff into an old quarry full of water. Amidst all this there have been plenty of deep and meaningful discussions about many aspects of life, and we’ve shared our dreams and challenges.
2. Powerful cultural experience. He and his friends have introduced me to many of the great qualities of Afghan culture, which led me to read a couple of books on the subject, and to keep informed of the political developments impacting on the Hazara people group in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
3. Inspiration. Through being associated with a young man who has demonstrated amazing courage and determination in response to challenges in life, which are beyond the imagination of most Australians, I am personally challenged to more carefully analyse my own priorities and my responses to comparatively smaller disappointments.
4. Insight. I’ve grown in the belief that there is enormous potential power in mentoring to make a positive impact on the lives of young people who are struggling with any aspect of life.
5. A collection of ideas. I’ve come up with an increasing accumulation of ideas from my experience over the past year, for effective mentoring. For example, the mentoring role needs to be as non-clinical as possible. It should be more of an enjoyable, inspiring, supportive friend relationship which makes the statement: “I believe in you; I care about you; I enjoy spending time with you; I welcome the opportunity to support and encourage you to rise up to levels beyond what you have been able to visualise for yourself.” Also, in the ideal mentoring relationship, both mentor and mentee should find plenty to laugh about, and have the freedom to express any emotions without embarrassment.
6. Passion. I have a strong dream growing in me to be involved in raising up an army of mentors who have a heart to see troubled youth rise above their circumstances and embrace big dreams.
There is a verse in the New Testament which says, “Give and it will be give to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6: 38)
The reality of that verse has certainly been reinforced for me through this mentoring experience.
Although my friend frequently thanks me for the encouragement I have given him, I feel that I have received far more than I have given.
To my young friend who has travelled the journey with me, I would say, “Thanks mate for a great year. I look forward to keeping in touch and hearing about your progress from here on.”