Numbers can fool you, can’t they? Assume you post a nice pair of shoes on Facebook for sale. How many likes do you get on the photo? How many people actually comment on it? While we may get excited about the engagement on the post, how many people actually asked to buy the shoe?The same concept applies to mentorship. Dorris Mwangi is a nineteen year old medical student at the University of Nairobi. She says her drive to study Medicine arose from her desire to provide quality healthcare.
She is the embodiment of determination and zeal. Dorris started mentorship early on with life. She is a bright student and back in high school, she was an avid reader of leadership and motivational books. She offered to assist other students by hosting review classes. This enabled her to teach her peers and help them in areas where they had the most difficulties. Through team work, Dorris was able to also work on her weak areas such as languages as group discussions enabled the students to share knowledge.
Each one, teach one. Sharing only allows people to gain more and she encourages students to assist each other. In the end, Dorris was the top girl in her school scoring a straight A in the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education in 2015. This was the beginning of great opportunities for her as the Equity Leadership Program (ELP) took her in. She had the chance to work in a bank as a Relationship Officer-Digital and hence gained financial independence.
‘Becoming an ELP beneficiary exposed me to a pool of resources. I had to learn to become responsible by budgeting and supporting my family back at home. I also had the chance to interact with influential leaders in society who inspired me. I have had opportunities to grow and exercise my leadership skills for instance through serving as the Head Chaperone at the Wings to Fly 9th Annual Educational and Leadership Congress and the lead mentor for the Wings to Fly mentorship program at Pangani Girls High School. On realizing that I had so much, I wanted to give back. I went back to my former high school and asked the school to help me reach out to a needy student. I used a part of my salary to pay her fees. I am glad she eventually did well,’ she reminisces. In June 2016, she applied to be a volunteer mentor with Equity Group Foundation and was assigned six Wings to Fly mentees at Pangani Girls High School. As a volunteer mentor, she was able to monitor and evaluate their performance in class and leadership until they completed high school. Two of them were able to join the Equity Leaders Program and are currently interns at Equity Bank.
It is as a volunteer mentor where she met Faith Mutheu who was equally determined to mentor younger people and hence they founded ‘Mshauri Trust’ to provide a platform where young people could share their experiences to inspire others. This initiative is run by university students in Kenya. Their goal is to empower the youth, majorly university students and high school students, through impactful mentorship and servant leadership. The organization also allows the mentors involved to be trained on personal development, leadership, decision making, effective communication and mentorship skills so as to continue providing quality services. It is difficult, however, to have the mentors trained consistently due to lack of financial resources. This is why they have embraced the digital space where they take part in online leadership courses such as the Young African Leadership Initiative.
Throughout 2017, they focussed on mentoring day schools where the transition rate to university is often low. At some point, they realised that speaking to many students at once was difficult to gauge impact. They therefore decided to focus on a smaller group of young people. They decided to find a place where they could help children from the home environment and work together with the schools.
Mshauri Trust now partners with the Thika Children’s Rescue Centre a home to 77 boys. They are currently working on the Mentorship with Empowerment Project which is meant to take at least four years. The students, mentors and management have been involved in setting commonly shared goals which all parties work towards achieving. Some of these objectives include: to increase the transition rate to the next class and consequently to institutions of higher learning, to nurture leadership skills among the students, promote their wholesome development and a culture of giving back to the society.
The Centre has 20 students who are in high school. One mentor has two mentees who they will walk with until they complete high school. This allows for consistency, commitment and trust to develop between mentors and mentees. In the end, the process is efficient. ‘It is not about the numbers but the magnitude of impact that you create,’ she points out.
Dorris would like to see youth empowered in order to create sustainable development and reduce levels of poverty. Her vision is to nurture a generation of leaders who are able to identify gaps in their societies and collaborate to execute plans to solve them. The ripple effect is that when a young person is mentored effectively, they can always assist the generations that come after them. It is important to take time to understand the needs of a young person. There is no need to be in a rush. Dorris encourages leaders to be purposeful. So far, they have had two sessions at the Thika Children’s Rescue Centre. The first session involved bonding through: Bible Trivia, Spelling Bee and sports while the second one was about guiding the students on identifying their life purpose and pursuing it.
During the bonding session, they handed a few books to the winners. It was then that they realised that the children at the institution were in need of books. Currently, they are running a book donation drive to fill the library. They need story books, text books for primary and secondary school, Bibles, dictionaries, Kamusi, motivation, personal development and leadership books. They aim to cultivate a reading culture among the students.
Her message to society is that the book drive is about charity with empowerment and accountability. She says that the books collected will be covered, stamped and inventoried. The students will then choose representatives to manage the books in the library. This will ensure the books serve the students even after the project comes to an end.
‘Some of the children at the centre were abandoned by their families. I would like to partner with a counselling firm so that the children have a healthy state of mind,’ she notes.
Mshauri Trust is now calling out to trainers and motivational speakers who would like to offer their time to train young people to join their cause. This is because mentorship should always have an abundant flow of resources. They also have wrist bands with motivational messages for sale. One band goes for 100 Kenya shillings. This enables them to support their activities.
Dorris believes that you can achieve anything you put your mind to. She urges young people to believe that they are worth investing in and to trust in God. Despite not always having support from people who are close to you, she says that young people should be persistent and never underestimate small beginnings. ‘Whenever you feel a strong conviction to make a difference, start with the little you have, eventually you will draw people with similar intentions as you,’ she says with assertion.