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A Short Story

She sat down on a stool in the middle of the room, tired and weary, tears almost flowing from sad eyes. Household items were scattered all around her as she tried to sort out the mess her children had created the previous evening before dosing off to sleep one by one on the floor. The front of her light-colored blouse had wet streaks acquired from washing last night’s utensils this morning, and she still had to mop the kitchen, clean the hen-house and cook lunch for the kids to be carried to their school just before they got out for lunch. In the afternoon she will have to rush to the market for more vegetables, iron clothes, cook supper and wash the kids’ uniforms that have been worn the last three days.

“Wow!” she thought, “If something doesn’t give way soon I’ll simply go mad!”

Pamela was getting pretty tired of her daily routine not so much because it was a lot of work but because she felt unable to get to where she desired to be in life. The threatening tears were being triggered by a feeling of hopelessness that comes when one keeps going through the same cycles everyday with no apparent end in sight. Although she had a diploma in communications from a prestigious college she just couldn’t get a job, not even as a receptionist at least! The process of trying to get a job itself was wearing out her patience and strength, having spent so much on fare to and from town, airtime calling friends for favors, photocopy for her documents and certificates, and using the internet to surf for vacancies, all to no avail. Her close friends with whom she once shared endless cups of tea and warm uji in the evenings just before supper, now made sure to veer off the path leading to her house whenever they could. They used to gather after work and tell each other stories of how their day went and what their children were doing, but no more.  To make matters worse, her husband who used to be very liberal with money had suddenly taken to questioning every expense and reducing the cash he left for her each morning. Could a lady’s life get any worse?

With all the strength she could muster, she heaved herself upwards and looked to the ceiling as though help would come from there. A short plea escaped her lips, “God, help me get something to do. I need meaning in my life.” And with that she resumed her chores, eager to finish them as quickly as possible.

On her way to the market a few hours later, she met a friend whom she had last seen just after primary school. Lucy’s face lit up the moment she saw Pamela.

“Hey, where have you been all this time?”

“Oh, just around you know,” replied Pamela. She didn’t feel like having a long conversation and hoped that Lucy would be on her way as soon as possible.

“Do you have a few minutes? I’d like to tell you about something I am doing with women in this community.”

“Well, I’m on my way to the market…”

“It won’t take long, really, I promise,” pleaded Lucy.

Pamela hesitated slightly then said, “Okay, let’s talk as we walk along then.”

Lucy began to explain her initiative for helping women get back on their feet after suffering major setbacks in life. She had gathered fifteen of them and was training them in various basic skills that would enable them start small business and get extra income for themselves and their families. Lucy felt that Pamela should join them as soon as possible.

“Have you ever thought of starting a small business?” asked Lucy. “It’s not hard, and once you get established you can start saving money to do some of the things you would have wanted to do if you were earning a good salary.”

“Hmm, haven’t thought much about that. You see, it’s hard to raise the capital, and…”

“No, no, capital should not be your excuse my dear. All you need to do is make up your mind what you want to do, taking into account the skills and talents you know you have. Take time to sharpen those skills at this training center I’m telling you about then from there you start marketing yourself to those who are near, and polepole you grow!”

“If I join the centre, what would it cost me and how long before I can start a small business?”

“We charge minimum fees that covers only cost of materials and the trainer’s time. You can make arrangements to pay in installments and do one skill at a time. Most of the skills we teach have a duration of only three months.”

“That sounds okay to me. Give me your number so that I can call you when I am ready.”

“Great!” replied Lucy.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………

This story demonstrates how easily we can be the Good Samaritan that restores hope for someone out there who needs it. In mentoring people, we are not only imparting skills and knowledge, sometimes we are re-building something less tangible in the heart of another person – HOPE.

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Mentoring: A Non-monetary Way of Giving Back

We all want to be able to give back to the community which brought us up in one way or the other. It is a good thing and should be an important goal for every human being. However, most of us think of ‘giving back’ as a monetary-clad option that requires a given financial outlay for it to be achieved. We think of how to set up an organization or purchase a machine or some device that will make life easier for others. These are very good ambitions but when you don’t have funds and you really want to help, what else can you do?

Giving back to society can be done in a number of different ways which may or may not include using your money. For instance, mentoring others in a skill or area of knowledge is one way to give back and it doesn’t have to cost even a penny. Just be available for someone else to lean on you, learn from you, pick your brains, get your advice, and generally get a feel of who you are and how you reached where you are. It’s that simple.

How do you do it?

Look for one person (or group of people if you are able to) who really needs a boost to get to where they are going. If you are good in a given area (you probably are) there’s always someone who is not as good as you but has the potential to get there. Offer them your time and open up your life to them so they can learn from you. You can choose to do this at a time convenient for you so that you don’t have to give up quality time for things important to you, e.g. family or business. Create a simple but flexible strategy that will work for you and the person being mentored.

Here are some tips:

  1. Start with meeting the person once a week or twice a month depending on your schedule and discuss ways in which the mentee can become better at what they do. Set specific goals for each meeting and if not achieved, review the meeting later and find out why the goals were not achieved.
  2. Follow up on any ‘homework’ that you give, research on any questions asked, and don’t leave anything hanging.
  3. Keep communication lines open. Agree on the mode of communicating, e.g. phone or email and stick to it unless something comes up that warrants a change. This enhances reliability on sharing information and/or concerns.
  4. Be as frank as possible with the mentee. Do not be shy about sharing your personal experiences, and be honest when correcting mistakes.

Can you think of someone who needs your time and attention? That’s the most it will take from you!

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