07 Jul LISTENER NOT MENTOR
I have been a social worker since 2006 and I have been privileged to work with people from all walks of life across the world. It’s been an amazing opportunity working in 3 countries with people from different cultures and backgrounds. I especially enjoyed working with young adults who are making a major transition in their lives and have dreams of making it big in due time.
As I started to work more with the young people I realized that there was so much to learn from them as well. I understood the value of just being present, listening to what they had to say. Once they opened up they had lots to say, and it seemed like there was a role reversal. I found myself to be more of a listener than a counselor or mentor.
I think it is a very difficult task to put ourselves in the shoes of young people. Over the years I believe that the dynamics have changed so much for the growing child. Today’s child has to cope with Bullying at school, the constant challenge to stay on par with their fellow peers in terms of technology, or even the latest fashion. This generation seems to find itself in a more complex situation, dealing with issues that are compromising with their innocence. Whether it’s the exposure to drugs, the ever- changing technology, the gadgets, the more prevalent single parent homes, the gun culture or threat of becoming a victim to gang activities.
It has been a learning experience working here in the Tierra Vida community, which is home to a diverse population. I found the culture change quite overwhelming initially. There was also the language barrier to a certain degree. It did not take me long to realize that they just needed me to be a friend. And once I was able to establish that relationship I was willing to listen.
Eleven year old K’mwee told me that she likes talking to me because I listen to her and I don’t interrupt her and therefore she feels her voice is being heard. I recall an incident when two little girls had a bad day. They hardly knew me but walked into the Collegium that day. I greeted them and asked them if they wanted to play some board games. They spent a good while playing and we bonded well. They later told me that they felt that I would be willing to listen to them because I always greeted them with a smile. They told me that they had an argument with their best friend over the choices she was making and they tried advising her but she would not listen. They continued to talk for a while as I listened patiently. I told them that they had good intentions and were trying to help. Both of them told me that all they wanted was to be able to tell someone how frustrated they were feeling and they felt good that I listened to them.
I believe my experience of working with the children and young adults in the Tierra Vida community has made me calmer, more focused and skilled at what I do. They taught me about compassion, sharing, loving and protecting each other.
This has been an amazing journey and a mutually rewarding experience that I wish to continue in the years to come.