Across Malaysia, many girls from poor and marginalised communities do not have a stable family environment or access to quality education. As a result, we often see low self-esteem, gaps in personal development and involvement in unproductive and possibly unhealthy activities among these girls. Given their circumstances, for many of them, being able to have dreams and make plans for a future seems like an impossible task.
Through our flagship Maharani programme, we try to reach out to these girls when they are in their formative years as adolescents and provide them with support to develop self-confidence and help them realise their potential.
An important aspect of personal development is mentoring. Mentorship is important for growth in all aspects of life. The mentor-mentee relationship is vital to the continuous evolution of both parties involved. Realising the importance of this, RYTHM Foundation has introduced the Footprints mentoring program to the Maharani project.
Footprints was a manifestation of a commitment made by the QI Group Founder Dato Sri Vijay Eswaran, to empower today’s youth to become tomorrow’s leaders of change. The program was conceptualised back in September 2009 based on the simple idea that with proper guidance and mentorship, anyone can succeed and better themselves. When it was first introduced, mentors were selected from employees of the QI Group and paired with children from shelter homes identified by the Foundation.
In its refreshed form introduced in 2018, Footprints is a 6-months mentoring program which matches less fortunate adolescent girls from the Maharani project with students of QI Universitywho are studying Early Childhood Education and Special Needs Education.
The aim of the program is to assure these young girls that there is someone who cares about them, someone they can talk to, to deal with the day-to-day challenges they face. The friendship between the mentor and mentee helps the girls understand the world around them a little better. Having a mentor also gives a mentee a positive role model, and opens up a new world of possibilities. A quality mentoring relationship has a powerful positive effect on young people in personal, academic and professional development.
A total of 14 girls aged 14 to 16 years from Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Datuk Haji Abdul Wahab Sg Siput, Perak who are already part of the Maharani Learning Labparticipated in the latest Footprints program.
The mentors and mentees met on a monthly basis at the Maharani Learning Lab and participated in various activities throughout the 6 month period. These activities were designed by professionals to teach key life skills, instil confidence and map out career aspirations for the participants. They also went on field trips to Kidzania KL for a Career Visit and to the Ray of Hope Ipoh Youths to spend time with the intellectually challenged.
All the activities and field trips helped the mentors and mentees forge a close bond, helping both to broaden their horizons and learn to overcome their limiting beliefs. At the end of 6 months, the results have been encouraging.
“Through this programme with my mentors, I learned that education is an important tool to break the cycle of poverty. The field trip to Kidzania for the Career fair was an eye opener since now I learnt so much about the various options available for my future. Now I can dare to think about the future and plan ahead,” shared Amirta Varsheni, a Footprint Project participant. She is supported by her mother, a factory worker, who is the sole breadwinner of the family after her father met with an accident and has been bedridden for several years.
The Footprints program has also helped the mentors immensely. The students of QIU say that it has given them a sense of responsibility and has taught them empathy, knowing they are now a role model for someone.
“The 6 months journey with the girls has left a great impact in both my educational journey and life experience. Since I aspire to be an early childhood educator, I’m glad I made the decision to participate in the Footprints project. It was amazing to witness the positive progress of our mentees as they developed into strong and confident girls. It was also a learning curve for me as I managed to overcome my own challenges and learned to turn them into my strength. It taught me empathy as I began to understand the issues that these girls are facing,” shared Manasi Prasanna Karandikar, a QIU international student pursuing Bachelors in Early Childhood Education.
Prior to the start of the Footprints project, the selected mentors underwent a training programme designed and conducted by experts in the field to equip them with the necessary skills. The training included modules on values such as respect, humility, and honesty, as well as role-play, time management, goal setting and mapping.