Friday, January 15, 2010

Hanging with the Mentees

"Hope sees the invisible,
feels the intangible and
achieves the possible"

The Mentees are here, the Mentees are here reads Erika's E-Mail. You could not help but hear the excitement pouring through. I have followed the journey of these courageous students by viewing the website,www.Active Compassion and through E-Mail updates from Erika, the Executive Director of this progressive organization, so aptly titled, Active Compassion Transforms, ACT for short. With hard work and dedication, the ACT team was able to bring 10 students fro the School of Hoope, in Cape Town, South Africa; who were given a chance through the kindness of the ACT team and others who are giving them hope in their young lives.

On this incredible trip, the mentees would meet their Mentors who had spent months through interACT, a secure online mentoring program, getting to know each other, listening to the heartbreaks of these wonderful children. They spent time building a relationship and the mentors guided them in the right direction. These dedicated souls were living up to ACT's mission which invites you to take action, to have compassion and such acts will certainly lead to transformation. The students were also paired with individuals who were established in fields that piqued the mentees interest and they spent time shadowing and learning the ropes of their careers they hope to pursue. Having fun in the big apple was part of this amazing journey.

My two charges were Mishqa and Lee-Anne who are interested in Social Work and Child Care. I took them to a WIC center and all the staff got involved in showcasing our work world. They were given a brief history of WIC and then stopped at each work 'station' to learn more about the daily activites. We were entertained by a video of past events while getting ready for the day's get together. Lee-Anne and Mishqa donned gloves and aprons, chopped and stirred, adding their culinary skills to the preparation of the kale and bean soup. The Nutritionists gave their good for you blessings as we dived in to this delicious soup made by the hands of those who cared. Good to the last drop!

Everyone was in step as we moved to the beat, challenging our limbs and having fun. Lunch was a spread of yucca, rice and beans, chicken, plantains and green salad with avocado, washed down with orange juice or water.

We walked through the neighborhood, pointing out places of interest and walking off the hearty meal that seemed to have stuck to our ribs. We romped a little, posing for photos on sidewalk benches. When we returned to the WIC center, Lee-Anne and Mishqa were given the opportunity to talk about their day, which they eloquently described as one of joy. We feel the same, thanks for sharing bits and pieces of your lives with us.

On the weekend the mentees decided to thank their mentors and all who contributed to make it possible for them to take this journey. They prepared tasty and satisfying dishes from South Africa, names that have now escaped me. We were treated to dancing by a fearless mentee, who creatively did a solo act. We had a poet in our midst who made his feelings known through his words. He told us the interpretation was up to us. Poet Laureate, I heard words of pain, joy and most of all gratitude.

Their teacher, who looked as youthful as those whose lives she was working to transform, spoke from the heart about the transformation she is witnessing in her beloved students. Tears were shed, tears of joy and gratitude for Erika and her crew. The students were lost for words except to say,thank you. And if may add my penny's worth, Thanks to the ACT organization for their superb job! Erika, et al, you are an inspiration and I am so grateful Carol to have met you that fateful morning, on the street while I was hustling to fundraise at Jamba juice. Glad to have been caught in the ACT.


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