The Importance of Creating Wonderfully Made Program
Young Black girls experience many barriers at the individual, cultural, and systemic/structural levels. Such barriers can take the form of negative feedback from others, which may take the form of a lack of identity support via social media, or systemic oppression. As a result, they may feel disconnected from their peers, schools, communities, and even their families. The impact of this can be devastating. Even in milder cases it can lead to lowered self-esteem and self-confidence and in turn low school success rates. However, not only can there be more severe impacts, but these milder issues can snowball into far more debilitating issues. For example, low school success rates lead to fewer career opportunities and higher rates of criminalization, while increase trauma, stress, anxiety, and depression can lead to higher risks of mental health concerns and unwellness. A lack of self-esteem and self-confidence can also make young Black girls more vulnerable to abusive interpersonal relationships and even community violence and abuse.
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be?Marianne Williams
Our Beneficiaries are our Communities
A beneficiary is described as the person who benefits from and experiences joy, wealth, resources, and access from a service, program, or intervention.
Our program recognizes that many young girl and women are impacted by racism, stereotypes, gender-based violence, biases, and discrimination. Thus, we seek to provide these young girls and women with mentorship, leadership, programs, and interventions that build resiliency, courage, options, and strength. Our Beneficiaries experience an intersection of identities, social location, and experiences. We have included a broad overview. We want to be cognizant of exclusion and want to include girls who fit this main description. Our curriculum content is primarily based on African-centric, Indigenous, and culturally-informed practices and belief and value systems. The primarily beneficiaries are Black girls between the ages of 12 and 29 years in the Durham Region and surrounding areas. Our mentors are young women between the ages of 16 and 29 years who fit their own criteria, willingness to grow. Our mentors and mentees have a shared connection of lived experiences. They have shared, lived experience of being in the child welfare and being involved in the youth justice system. We also will create content and provide leadership opportunities for Black and racialized girls who identity as members of the LGBTQ+ (Rainbow) community. Their shared commonality/dreams include the opportunity to grow/share their talents, be accepted, and feel loved and respected by others.
Young women who will have access to mentors, counsellors and life coaches who can support their development from a group to individual format. These young women will receive guidance, support, and knowledge that will empower change and holistic healing in their lives. We use holistic approaches because we see the body as interconnected with the mind and spirits. Our physical bodies are supported through nutrition, exercise, emotional expressions, healthy experiences, and social connections. We believe that our workshop must focus on education, leadership, cultural awareness, historical events, and spoken word. Furthermore, our spirits—the birthplace of our intuition, faith, and soul—is supported through workshops that help us generate the power within. When young women between the ages of 16 and 29 years feel prepared and have expressed a desire to contribute to the Wonderfully Made program, they are encouraged to join our core group member, project coordinator, and mentors in various program events. This may consist of attending or facilitating an in-school workshop, facilitating a Wonderfully Made support group, organizing an outreach project, and one-on-one sessions with a mentee.
All workshop sessions are closed with a circle activity. Elders and mentors offer blessings of gratitude, hope, and resiliency to the mentees. The mentees highlight what they have learned, and how the group has supported them. Elders and healers are an important part of the session as a way to pass down blessings and hope to the generation, and the mentors and mentees who walk in their path. Each session always begins with land acknowledgement. Elders provide guidance to the mentees by providing experience to the circle.
Several of our group norms can be summarized in acronym the PREBaN.
The ‘P’ refers to staying present, which refers to engaging in active listening. Since some of the group conversations might be difficult and emotional, being supportive through patience and listening is one of the crucial goal of group work.
The ‘R’ refers to being respectful, which include the practice of cultural humility. This requires people to avoid generalizing about one’s own cultural norms.
The ‘E’ stands for staying engaged, which means being non-judgemental and allowing members to explain their unique experience.
The ‘B’ stands for understanding one’s own biases.
The ‘N’ represents the non-judgemental approach that we must always use. The facilitator’s role will be providing support, advice, guidance, motivation, emotional support, and role modeling.
We are Building Mentors who Lead
There are seven qualities that a mentor should have:
- Relevant expertise or knowledge,
- Enthusiasm for sharing that expertise,
- A compassionate and respectful attitude,
- An eagerness to invest in others
- The ability to give honest and direct feedback,
- The ability to engage in reflective listening and empathize, and
- The willingness to be a sponsor.
Relevant Expertise or Knowledge
One of the key qualities that a mentor should have is relevant expertise or knowledge. For example, a mentee who needs help with math requires a mentor who is familiar with math. Though a mentor who only has a cursory understanding of math could still make a positive contribution, they may either forward incorrect information that could inhibit or stunt the mentee’s development or provide inefficient support that slows the mentee’s progress. Hence, in such contexts, it is ideal to have a mentor who is an expert in math.
Enthusiasm for Sharing That Expertise
The relevant expertise and knowledge is critical, it is likewise important that the mentor be enthusiasm stick to share this expertise. For instance, if a mentor has an advanced understanding of science and becomes easily annoyed when offering instruction to a mentee who struggles to comprehend lesson content, then the mentee well likely see the mentor’s frustration and feel as if they are a burden. This could undermine the mentor-mentee relationship.
A Compassionate and Respectful Attitude
Just as it is important to be enthusiastic about sharing expertise, it is likewise important that mentors adopt a respectful attitude. If a mentor speaks in a way that insults the mentee, this could poison the mentor mentee relationship and create barriers to learning.
Eagerness to Invest in Others
Possessing an eagerness invest in others is as important as the eagerness to share one’s knowledge or expertise. If a mentor does not recognize that the time they share with a mentee is an investment, they could lose patience with the process. If the mentee observes that the mentor is impatient, this could likewise poison the mentor mentee relationship and again inhibit the mentee’s development.
The Ability to Give Honest and Direct Feedback
Mentors must also be able to give honest and direct feedback. If a mentee is struggling with understanding a concept and the mentor is reluctant or apprehensive about offering constructive criticism for fear of hurting the mentee’s feelings, this could create a barrier to the mentee’s development.
Reflective Listening and Empathy
When offering direct feedback, it is likewise vital that the mentor be able to engage in reflective listening and demonstrate empathy. For instance, if the mentee is experiencing a barrier to the learning process and the mentor does not take the time to engage in reflective listening, they may not be able to identify the barrier and develop a solution to overcome that barrier. As a result, mentee’s development may again be inhibited. Likewise, if a mentor does not take the time to empathize with and understand the barrier, they may prove unwilling to develop a solution to it, which could also impede the mentee’s development.
Willingness to Be a Sponsor
Finally, it is critical that all mentors be willing to be a sponsor. This involves being able to regularly and consistently set aside time to dedicate mentees and honoring the schedule by being present and punctual. If mentees notice that their mentors often cancel there’s scheduled appointments or show up late, then they may infer that they are not a priority to the mentor and that they are not important. This could inadvertently perpetuate many of the barriers that mentees experience and undermine the mentor mentee relationship.
Both mentors and mentees should utilize some core skills in their mentoring partnerships. Such as, encouraging, building trust, active listening, setting boundaries, working towards assigned goals, open door policy and providing constructive feedback.