MY MENTORING JOURNEY
How I learnt the need for family and community
I began volunteering 15 years ago with a few non-profit organisations. At that point, I was a ‘helpoholic’, shopping for a worthy cause to contribute my time and energy. To me, volunteering was about giving to the poor and helping disadvantaged people.
In 2009, I was introduced to Beautiful People by a friend. Beautiful People debunked the myths I had about volunteering. What attracted me to Beautiful People was the culture of giving and receiving and the idea of walking a parallel journey with one another through the transitions in life. The Beautiful People mentoring relationship is one of empowerment, learning and growing together rather than saving, fixing or changing others.
I started as a mentor at Pertapis Centre, joined the Learning & Development Team, was a coach in the Good Work! Programme, and I’m now co-leading the Free For Good Programme. I’m also serving in a few other Beautiful People committees and was an ex-ExCo member so you can say I have been around the block! As far as I know I’m the oldest volunteer in Beautiful People, in terms of age but not length of service. At Beautiful People I’m a mentor and mentee at the same time, just like everyone else.
I like how the Beautiful People Family is a community of like-minded people who believe in the power of relationship to change and transform lives. Not everyone is born into a loving family. With Beautiful People we have the opportunity to ‘practice family’ which means accepting the good, the bad and the ugly and staying together through thick and thin. My life has been transformed by the sisters who have invested in me and supported me in making some of my dreams come true. Many of them took a leap of faith with me to start the Free For Good Programme in Changi Women’s Prison. So many loving big sisters have role-modelled the change they wish to see and I’m forever grateful for their wisdom and patience. The Beautiful People Family has given me the resources to invest in other people’s lives and dreams and that has made all the difference.
There have been tons of memorable experiences but I would like to share Norli’s story, one which has stood out in this most unwelcomed pandemic year.
Norli’s dream is to inspire other women in prison to break through negative cycles that keep them from moving forward in life. She had attended Beautiful People’s first Free For Good Programme and was released from prison in 2015. After waiting for five years, Norli has finally moved closer to achieving her dream, having cleared the security check by Singapore Prison. This clearance allows her to go into prison again but this time as a volunteer with the other mentors. I met her with a group of Big Sisters from Free For Good’s first programme to hand her the prized Singapore Prison volunteer pass and to celebrate her achievements. It was such a proud and momentous milestone for her and us!
Beautiful People has taught me that we cannot do life alone, we are built for relationships and community. I’m an introvert and happy to be with my own company but my journey with Beautiful People has helped me to see a different perspective and that is we are all interdependent. The Beautiful People Family brings to life the Ubuntu philosophy – “I am what I am because of who we all are”. Community is important because we discover ourselves through relationships. Every relationship brings out a strength or weakness in me, and gives me the opportunity to learn more about myself and other people. We are blessed with gifts and talents that have meaning only in the context of community. Our gifts and talents are given for the purpose of serving others and to build the community for a common and greater good.
I would like to encourage aspiring mentors to practise self care. Learn to take good care of yourself, fill your cup with people and activities that make your heart sing because you cannot pour from an empty cup. Love and accept yourself just as you are without judgement. Give generously to yourself because the more you give to yourself, the more you have to share with others. This way you can bring your ‘whole’ self to the mentoring relationship. It is okay not to have your act together because you are learning and growing every day, we are all human be-coming. Allow yourself to be vulnerable because we are imperfect people living imperfect lives. Our shared pain and suffering teach us acceptance and compassion much more than our shared joys. Life happens for us, not to us!
Testimony by Susie, Mentor and Volunteer with Beautiful People