The Mentorship Experience

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.

Mentorship

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:

  1. Relevant expertise or knowledge,
  2. Enthusiasm for sharing that expertise,
  3. A compassionate and respectful attitude,
  4. An eagerness to invest in others
  5. The ability to give honest and direct feedback,
  6. The ability to engage in reflective listening and empathize, and
  7. 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.

Core Skills

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.

To learn more about becoming a mentor

Not everyone knows whether they will become a mentor, and whether they can make difference, but it does not mean you can’t try.

Wonderfully Made Visions

Discussing our Goals

Why Wonderfully Made?

Wonderfully Made program seeks to empower and motivate young women to develop the interpersonal skills. Sessions will be offered every two weeks over five months for a total of ten workshops. The mission of this program corresponds to the agency’s mission of developing and fostering a respectful, collaborative and inclusive environment for each other, and the community. Likewise, practising an inclusive and anti-oppressive practice which dismantles and addresses discrimination, harassment, victimization, and other forms of violence against each other, service users, and the community.

Some staff are volunteers and others are program coordinators, and each has been working in the field for different lengths of time, some staff have different and/or more experience than others. This program will specifically have one program outreach and four interns from the masters and bachelors of social work programs or diploma programs. This will help provide input and perspective. The youth outreach must be experienced and have been at the agency for more than two years to be able to facilitate the workshops. Program staff need to follow proper code of ethics of confidentiality and respect the inherent rights and dignity of all persons (CASW Code of Ethics, 2020). Those with a social work background are aware of this; however, other staff will need to undergo training of the code in order to help with the program. All program staff and “professionals should be culturally competent when operating in social service settings” (Nadan, 2017, p. 76). This means that facilitators should have the knowledge of oppressive systems and power structures that marginalize young Black girls. Facilitators should also adopt strength based and anti-oppressive frameworks that are filtered through a feminist lens.

Wonderfully Made develops culturally-informed, holistic programs that inspires girls to achieve their best outcomes with guidance from girls who look like and represent them.

During session days, staff will divide their time up between three tasks: face-to-face contact, which will comprise approximately 75% of their time; supervision and consultation, which will comprise approximately 25%; and advocacy, which will comprise approximately 5% of their time. This overall use of workers’ time places more emphasis on providing direct support to participants. However, on non-session days, the workers’ time will be divided differently: 35% will be dedicate to report writing, 20% to telephone contact, 20% to consultations, 15% to advocacy, and 10% to face-to-face contact. This prioritizes back end work to help the participants to succeed while still maintaining contact with participants to further their outcomes.

Program Interventions and Activities

The program activities include workshops a variety of subjects, including eating well and staying healthy, self-care, mindfulness, and resilience. The workshops will cover the topics that directly affect Black girls’ mental health, such as isolation, social justice, and the ability to cope with stigma and intimate partner violence (IPV).

To enhance the professional identity, résumé and cover letter training will be offered for mentors. The training workshops session will focus on employment to identify challenges that young Black women encounter when applying for jobs. Résumé and cover letter workshops can help women write their own effective résumés and cover letters. The workshops will be held once every two weeks, and there will be one-on-one counselling sessions provided if participants need additional information.

Participants can attend as many workshops as they wish, and participate in the rites of passage program. We understand that mentors lives may change, and thus once they enter the program they continue to remain involved as much as they wish. Mentors are encouraged to remain in the program for a minimum of one year. Mentees can remain involved from 12 years old, until they wish to become mentors at 16 years old.

Satisfaction of the Program and the Stakeholders

Once the participants have completed the program, they will be given a program evaluation survey. The survey will provide a general questionnaire about the program and the service delivery. By conducting the survey, the family ourteach will be able to implement changes to the program according to the recommendation mentioned by the participants for the next cohort. Through the success of the cohort within the program, the stakeholder satisfaction will increase. For example, implementing these changes will improve the quality of the program and will allow program to reach its mission goals and program objective. The participants will also be given a survey after completing their placement. This will give the outreach staff a chance to evaluate the placement, the readiness of the participants, and whether or not the workshops met their learning needs. These measures of satisfaction will help program coordinators evaluate the effectiveness of the placement in conjunction with the material covered within the workshops. By making the necessary changes and adapting to the needs of the cohort, the program can be more efficient and effective. In addition, the social workers will also provide the participants with support during and after the completing of the program, though the support will vary depending on the participant’s needs.

Data Collection Methods

Quantitative data can indicate how many participants completed the program and how many were able to get a job at a livable wage. Quantitative information is often expressed in terms of percentages, ratios or prices, and quantitative methods of data collection provide assessment for results, rating scale surveys, and methods of observation that count how many times something has occurred (Smart, 2020). The data collection will include a rating scale survey to determine how many participants reported getting benefited. Qualitative data will also be implemented as it can collect feedback from participants regarding the program and what they found helpful or challenging.

Cultural Appropriateness and Ethical Considerations

Since we are focusing on young Black, Indigenous and racialized women, it is important to ensure that evaluation methods are relevant and appropriate. For example, the assessment tools used, or questionnaires could be first implemented as pilot methods with participants to improve them according to the participants’ suggestions. Since our participants might be from different racial backgrounds, it is important to have participants’ perspective on assessments and ensure we use tools that are appropriate (Smart, 2020). The principles for ethical conduct of the Canadian assessment society indicate that evaluators should be culturally and socially sensitive to the stakeholders in an appropriate manner to this environment (Canadian Evaluation Society, 2014). Ethical considerations are essential when working on data collection and involving stakeholders as part of the evaluation process (Anderson Draper, 2006). For example, when working with other community organizations, it is important to keep participants’ personal information confidential. This program aims to minimize any ethical issues, and, because participation is entirely voluntary, participants will be able to discontinue participating with no consequences at any time. Moreover, the questions asked in questionnaires or surveys are not intended to be sensitive where it may trigger emotions.

The Story of Wonderfully Made

Why we do what we do, who we service, and why young people are powerful agents of change?

We developed Wonderfully Made due to the lack of appropriate services for Black and racialized girls, and to address the barriers they experience their daily lives. Black girls and young women feel disconnected from others. In the media, they are bombarded with images that either do not reflect or represent them or their identity or that misrepresent them and promote harmful stereotypes. In schools, Black girls often do not have positive connections and do not see themselves reflected in the teaching who are supposed to support them. Moreover, they are not represented thoroughly in the curriculum and are therefore at risk for poorer outcomes, including low self-esteem, disengagement from community, and mental health challenges. Furthermore Black girls and women experience barriers to their education and employment goals due to systemic racism, poverty, lack of support, and exposure to high risk communities.

Interested, and want to learn more?

We are always looking for mentors (ages 16 to 29), professional mentors (adult women in their field), and mentees to join Wonderfully Made. Consider connecting with us to learn more or apply.