How do you react to the images of suffering and traumatized children?

When you see images of the frightened and traumatized children outside the airport in Kabul, what thoughts go through your mind? Or, the photos of children standing outside rubble, which was once their home, in Haiti after an earthquake? Or, children and families looking at a vacant space where their house once stood before the floods or fire anywhere in the world, but especially in poor nations?

These are thoughts I have had throughout the past month or so with the floods, fires, earthquake and most recently the ongoing crisis unfolding in Afghanistan. I always react as a parent (imagine if that was me) or a teacher (imagine if that happened to a young person I was teaching). And, as I reflect on these situations, I am also mindful of the significant suffering many are experiencing throughout the world as a result of the pandemic. We are in lockdown 4 at the moment, restricted to our homes. Already, after one week we are hearing the voices of young people who want to be at school and with their friends. These face-to-face contacts are so important to all of us, in reality.

Global mentoring expert, Professor Jean Rhodes commented recently: “Supportive, nonparental adults play a critical role in the lives of adolescents, helping them navigate their identities, and providing support that can offset considerable individual and contextual risks, while promoting resilience across a range of important academic, behavioral, and health domains … Research indicates that the benefits of such relationships for mental and relational health can last into adulthood, even for those who experienced significant childhood adversities.”

I have absolutely no doubt that the global community will be crying out for more and more mentors to move alongside so many of these young people in the months and years ahead. This is why I promote the ‘spirit of mentoring’. Here are a few thoughts to consider as we encourage youth to reach their potential.

A Mentor’s Dream

A few years ago, I was asked what I would say to a young person to encourage them to reach their potential. This is what I wrote, as it appears in my new book: Mentoring Minutes: Weekly Messages to Encourage Anyone Guiding Youth. It has been the most sought after piece I have written and the most downloaded podcast in the free Mentoring MInutes short, user-friendly podcasts.

My dream for you is that you wake up each morning, look at yourself in the mirror, love from the heart the person you see, always strive to be your unique self, and take a positive attitude into every day. My dream for you is that you build your life on strong foundations, so that you can withstand the inevitable storms of life, and remain a positive person. My dream for you is that you dare to dream big dreams, set realistic, achievable and measurable goals, fail sometimes, but remain determined to conquer adversity, and to discover, develop, and use your special gifts and talents to bring about a better community, a more caring society, a more compassionate world. My dream for you is that you often take time out to reflect on your progress, to visualize yourself ten years from now as a happy, proud, yet humble person, content with life, continually placing the interests of others before your own. My dream for you is that you discover the meaning of true love; that you sensibly risk entering into positive and meaningful relationships with others, and that your life is wonderfully enriched as a consequence. My dream for you is that you remember that you are a beautiful person both on the inside and the outside; that you have potential greatness within you, and that, as you leave your footprints on the sands of life’s journey, many will walk positively after you, and strive to emulate all that you achieve as a positive person of influence. My dream for you is that you always remember that you are a special person in God’s eyes, and that you discover, during your life’s journey, His unique purpose for placing you on this planet. My dream for you is everything that you positively wish for yourself!

The role of a mentor

A mentor wears a variety of hats during the mentoring journey as a mentor, a wise guide, a coach, and friend to their mentee.

Here are some of the different roles a mentor undertakes during the mentoring journey to help you appreciate how these roles positively impact the lives of young people. A great opportunity for some reflection about your mentoring experience. This appears in my book: Mentoring Minutes: Weekly Messages to Encourage Anyone Guiding Youth.


Be a Motivator:

As your mentee sets out to fulfill their potential, they develop a belief in their own self-worth, and acknowledge that they have control over things that happen to them most of the time.


Be an Empowerer:

Reassure your mentee that they are valued and they matter. They will connect with you when they feel safe, liked, and respected. Have realistic, yet high expectations, and communicate these to your mentee. Your mentee will influence the people with whom they interact, such as, peers, siblings, and other family or extended family members.


Be a Navigator:

Be prepared to negotiate clear boundaries with your mentee so that they understand the consequences of their choices when they cross these boundaries.


Be a Teacher:

Encourage your mentee to develop or refine important life skills. These include how to set goals, effectively manage their time, resolve conflicts, appreciate the lasting importance of learning, and to have a sense of purpose.


Be Open-minded and non-judgmental:

Accept your mentees as they are. Remain objective—able to look at all sides of an argument or situation as you encourage your mentee to interact positively with others and learn how to cope with new situations.


Be a Reflector:

Model the important activity to take time out to reflect. Teach your mentee how to review their situation; look for the positive and affirming opportunities; how to learn from mistakes and other life experiences.


Any adult concerned about the health and wellbeing of our youth can embrace the ‘spirit of mentoring’.

I have so many mixed thoughts about our global community at the moment. As I was walking along the beach the other day and reflecting about the different crises occupying our news slots and what I could share in this blog, I appreciated too how fortunate and privileged I am. Pause, sit back and allow Louis Armstrong to be a voice of encouragement in your life today. Never forget that we must share messages of HOPE with our young people as we encourage them to reach their potential.