“Young people need models, not critics.” - John Wooden.
In early April, my site-mates and I decided to collaborate and implement two huge, fun Grassroot Soccer (GRS) camps with intentions of educating and helping the youth in Mzimba learn more about HIV, how they can prevent themselves from being infected, and how they can stop the spread in their community. The camps were a success and it was great. Not only were the camps success, but I also made a lot of friends after these camps. Every day I meet a lot of people, whether be it participants, relatives, or parents of participants, who appreciate what their children brought back from the camps. It is amazing to hear that and encourages me a lot in my work as a Volunteer.
I do not know how it happened, but after the camp I became close with many of the participants, and yes I got myself friends or should I say brothers and sisters. These brothers I made are phenomenal and honestly speaking I enjoy their company and I feel safe with them around. They are always checking in on me, they visit me daily to teach me more Tumbuka language, and they take me places where I have never imagined during weekends, which is fun. They also want me to be their football team manager.
Well, there is a reason they want me as their team manager. With all the generosity these boys are showing me I thought to myself, “How do I give back to these guys?” I came up with an idea; a mentorship group! I figured these young men look at me as their role model and they want to know more about how they can be where I am now and maybe have an opportunity to serve with CorpsAfrica one day.
During the second week of April, I called eight of the young men over to my house and told them the idea I had of starting the mentorship group with them. I got positive responses and they were excited. Thinking back to how we conducted our mentorship groups in college, I used a few parts of how it was done, and I changed a couple of other things. There are eight boys and I meet two each day separately for 15 to 30 minutes to talk about anything which is on their mind. This can be something which is troubling them or even something making them excited during that week. And then we all meet once every fortnight on Fridays. It was tough at first when I was meeting them individually as most would not open up, but after couple of meetings it was a success. These boys are awesome, and I believe they will do big things and be a success to their community. They are the kind of boys who have chosen to be different than the rest of the community by focusing on their education, well-being, and starting little small businesses to support themselves.
Of all my projects I am doing with this community I believe the mentorship group will impact these young men, their families, friends, and the community the most. I am honored and humbled to be trusted by them and their parents, and also be a part of their lives.