Manasi Prasanna Karandikar, 39 from Mumbai, India has always been passionate about teaching young children. Pursuing her interest, she joined the Quest International University (QIU) in Malaysia and enrolled in the Early Childhood Education programme.
When RYTHM Foundation launched Footprints, aimed at mentoring the girls of the Maharani programme by pairing them with a caring adult, QIU’s Early Childhood Education and Special Needs Education departments stepped in to partner with the pilot programme.
Manasi was selected as a mentor for Footprints for a duration of six months.
“The six months journey with the girls has left a great impact on both my educational journey and life experience. Since I aspire to be an early childhood educator, I’m glad I decided 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,” she said.
“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,” she said.
“The project gave me a sense of responsibility, knowing that we are now a role model for these girls,” she added.
Manasi and the other mentors underwent a training programme designed and conducted by experts in the field to equip them with the necessary tools. The training included modules on values such as respect, humility, and honesty, as well as role-play, time management, goal setting and mapping.
A total of 14 girls aged 14 to 16 years from SMK Datuk Haji Abdul Wahab Sg Siput, Perak who are part of the Maharani Learning Lab (MLL), participated in the Footprints programme.
The mentors and mentees met every month at the MLL and participated in various activities throughout the six months. These activities were designed by professionals to teach key life skills, instill 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 challenge
One of the mentees, P. Amirta Varsheni now 18, said the Footprints project gave her many insights into various job opportunities available out there.
“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,” said Amirta.
“My mentor’s name was Samantha who was pursuing her degree in special needs at QIU. She was very passionate about the field she chose to study. I learned from her to find out what I am most passionate about and to work towards achieving my dream,” she said.
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 support them 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 programme 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.
The aim of the Footprints programme is to assure these young girls that there is someone who cares about them, someone they can talk to and help 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.