The Ripple Effect of Mentorship: How One Relationship Can Change Lives and Communities
Before Farzana, I naturally had no inkling what it meant to be a young, Afghani woman and a refugee. Meeting Farzana changed my life. We spent weeks online getting to know each other through Open Door Policy’s Mentorship programme.
Farzana unlocked both her heart and life up to me. I consider myself lucky to know the many facets of her life - the Farzana who loves to read, the Farzana who dreams about empowering women, the Farzana who is resilient, the Farzana who smiles in spite of an impossible reality and the Farzana who has grown from strength to strength from the moment she had to flee her home.
Hers is a story that is oft repeated in the news, sadly. Displaced from Afghanistan as a young girl, she was forced to stop school and did not complete her education. The war that raged around her forced her to escape from everything she knew and loved. She and her family had to find a safer space and security in a country where they could live in peace.
Peace, however, looks different for Farzana. While she is currently in limbo and living in Indonesia, peace is a practice she is building every day. Peace is a state that she has to create. As a refugee, Farzana has to carry the stress, worry and anxiety that comes with being a displaced person: when will she have a home that she can call her own? How much longer will she have to wait? Will she ever live a ‘normal’ life? What happens if she can’t support her family financially?
The mentor - mentee experience
Refusing to lose hope, Farzana found Open Door Policy (ODP): a non-profit organisation that upskills displaced individuals and connects them to remote digital work. Farzana applied and was accepted into their programme. This is how we met and formed a mentor - mentee relationship based on trust and openness.
As a mentor, my goal was to guide and prepare Farzana for an interview at the end of ODP’s programme. The backdrop for the mentorship is ODP’s skills training programme. Farzana first found it challenging to pace herself through her skills modules, but despite that, she embraced ODP’s growth mindset principle and gave it her all. In the process she learnt something about herself - it felt natural to lead. Her tiny win of pulling off and leading a group presentation boosted her confidence, and as her mentor, I saw it manifest in the best way - Farzana now has no doubt that she is in control of her future, and as a strong woman, will get to where she needs to be to empower others like her, too.
When I signed up to become a mentor, I hoped I could guide my mentee. I didn’t really know what my mentee might need from me but I hoped the years I spent in the digital workforce would help give me (and my mentee) insight.
It was enough, and through that experience, I learnt I was enough and that I could empower others too. I knew the importance of open communication and found a kindred spirit who reacted the same way. Farzana and I connected through shared emotions of uncertainty but we allowed space for each other to learn and to teach. I guided Farzana on how best to represent her formal skills on a C.V and helped her highlight her wins through her previous volunteer roles.
Living with purpose
At the end of the programme, Farzana landed interviews with two different start-ups in Singapore, and as fate would have it, she was successful in a role that personally spoke to her interests.
She is the Virtual Assistant of Thryft Books, and nearly five months into this role, Farzana continues to thrive. She loves her role not just because she works with books, but also because she’s able to learn from her colleagues and knows she is an integral part of Thryft’s team.
ODP’s mentorship programme was only 8 weeks, but from where I stand now, it’s been one entire year of knowing Farzana and playing a very, very, small part in helping her transition into a phase of life that nourishes her; learning from a successful social enterprise, supporting her family with sustainable income and most of all, purpose in her everyday life.